§ Mr. Speaker
We come now to the debate on defence. May I announce to the House that I have selected the Amendment in the name of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, but not the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun).
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
While not dissenting from your Ruling on selection, Mr. Speaker, may I ask your advice on two matters? The House knows your great care to protect the rights of individual Members and minorities and your great efforts to maintain the reputation of Parliament.
First, it appears that the exclusion of minority Amendments put down by hon. Members on this side denies hon. Members the opportunity of demonstrating their views by voting in support of their Amendment.
Second, concerning Parliament's reputation, there is a small but growing minority in the House who feel that the near-certainty that this type of Amendment will not be called may be leading some hon. Members to add their names without serious intent.
I am sure that you will agree that, if true, this is very damaging to Parliament's reputation and might expose hon. Members to the growing opinion outside the House that all we are concerned with is paper procedure rather than serious matters. Would you take these two matters into consideration, Mr. Speaker, and give me your advice?
§ Mr. Speaker
The second half of what the hon. Member says is political comment and Mr. Speaker is not interested in the politics of anyone in the House.
The answer to the first half is that the selection of Amendments is left absolutely in the hands of Mr. Speaker and cannot be challenged or questioned. One of the difficulties of the procedure of the House may be that it has not yet devised methods by which members of the Government can vote against the Government easily.
If I may advise the House, supporters of the Amendment which is not selected may, if they catch my eye, traverse all the arguments which they would have 985 put if the Amendment had been selected. When it comes to the vote at the end of the evening, all of them are experienced enough Parliamentarians to know exactly how to vote if they wish to express disapproval of the Government or of the Opposition.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Denis Healey)
I beg to move,That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1967, Command Paper No. 3357.The Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy marks the end of a process which has taken three years continuous hard work. It does not mark the end of the Government's review of defence. On the contrary, the machinery which we have set up and developed over the last three years will enable the present Government and future Governments to keep every aspect of our defence policy permanently under review in order to ensure that the commitments which we undertake are still relevant to our political needs; that we have the weapons and forces needed to carry out these commitments; and that we are getting the best possible value for every £1 we spend for military purposes.
The process whose completion is marked by the present White Paper is a unique exercise, which, I hope, will not be repeated for many years. It is the first serious attempt by any British Government to bring our defence, foreign and economic policies into balance with one another not only in the current year or the years immediately ahead, but, so far as can be foreseen, over the next decade.
The programme which we inherited from the previous Administration involved spending 7 per cent. of our national product on defence for the following 10 years. It took no account of the impact of this rate of spending on our economy over a period when none of our European allies envisaged expenditure on anything like this scale. It was not related to any view of the way in which our foreign policy and the military commitments springing from it would develop over the years in question. Evidently, the previous Government did not believe these aspects of defence policy even worth considering.
986 The major exercise undertaken by the present Government has fallen into two phases. The first phase looked only to the end of this decade. We were concerned to lop £400 million off the Conservative Government's defence plans for the financial year 1969–70. The consequences of our work during this phase of the review were set out in the 1966 White Paper. We then showed how we planned to save over £300 million by getting better value for money, with no reduction in our ability to fulfil our commitments.
The savings here were real ones and were painful. They meant cancelling projects on which metal was being cut and men employed. They meant redundancies, for example, in the Territorial Army. The House will recall that thousands of aircraft workers marched in the streets to protest on one issue; a Minister and a Chief of Staff resigned on another; and on one occasion the Government came within a hair's breadth of losing their majority in Parliament.
They were real cuts and painful ones, but, as a result, the nation has had £750 million more to spend on on other purposes over the last three years than it would have had under the plans which the Conservatives had announced in office and continued to support in opposition.
Nevertheless, it was not possible, in February last year, to decide finally on how the remaining gap would be closed and the full £400 million saved on the 1969–70 defence budget. I told the House on 8th March, 1966:… we plan, when confrontation is brought to an end … that it must be a major objective to reduce the level of our forces in the Far East to that once planned by the previous Government before confrontation began; when we are able to reduce our deployment in the Far East to that level—we shall make further reductions in equipment and manpower which will save the additional £100 million".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 2045–6.]The right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) poured scorn on this statement, saying that the ending of confrontation was mere speculation, and that we could not rely on it ending before 1969. Of course, he was wrong, as in most of his predictions in the House in the last three years, as he was wrong in predicting, in the same speech, that the carrier force 987 would collapse through a fall-off in recruiting to the Fleet Air Arm. As I hope he now knows, recruiting to the Fleet Air Arm is almost embarrassingly high; and confrontation came to an end only three months after he was suggesting that we could not count on it ending in the following three years.
The ending of confrontation last summer, and the progress which we have made towards revising N.A.T.O. strategy in the last 12 months, have made it possible for us to complete the first phase of the defence review by achieving our full target of £400 million saving in 1969–70. They have also made it possible for us to carry out the second phase of our defence review by looking well into the 1970s, so as to make even greater savings on the basis of commitments which will be reduced following major modifications in our foreign policy. As a result, we have been able to define the role of the Armed Services in the 1970s in a way which will ensure that, although reduced in size, they are able to carry out all their essential tasks in protecting the security of the nation and supporting our foreign policy.
I was glad to see from the foreign affairs debate last week that the Opposition Front Bench supports the Government in giving first priority to our defence policy in Europe. Here, the review of N.A.T.O. strategy is now well under way and the Alliance as a whole has gone far towards accepting the major principles which the present Government have been preaching for the last three years. We have often debated those principles and I will not repeat them now.
The most important outcome of the discussions in N.A.T.O. so far is a general agreement that the level of forces now maintained by N.A.T.O. is sufficient to make war in Europe highly improbable, and that it is neither necessory nor possible to plan on any substantial increase in those forces—though there is still work to be done in improving their efficiency and strengthening co-operation between their national components.
On the other hand, it is not possible to envisage a substantial reduction in N.A.T.O.'s present forces without either a major change in N.A.T.O.'s strategy 988 or some progress towards agreement for reciprocal reductions on both sides of the Iron Curtain. This remains a major objective of our policy, but we cannot base our actions now on the assumption that it will be achieved by any given date. So we must assume that our contribution to N.A.T.O. will remain broadly of its present size.
At the same time, the N.A.T.O. countries now agree that the stability of the military situation in Europe is now such that any major change in Soviet policy is likely to be preceded by weeks or months of political warning. For this reason, it may be possible for N.A.T.O. countries which lose excessive foreign exchange through stationing their troops in Germany to hold some of them at home in normal circumstances, provided that they remain under N.A.T.O.'s command and are capable of returning rapidly in a crisis.
We are, therefore, proposing to withdraw one of the six brigades in B.A.O.R. to Britain in the New Year so as to save the foreign exchange costs involved in keeping it in Germany. As a result, and thanks to our success in negotiating the payment of £69 million in offset, seven-eighths of our stationing costs in Germany will be covered in the current year.
The House will remember that a few months ago the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West was lecturing us to the effect that we should be very lucky to obtain at the utmost one-half of our present stationing costs in offset. I do not blame him for his pessimism. His own Government got well under one-third in their last year of office—only £24 million. We have got seven-eighths—£69 million.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman do me the kindness to refer to the occasion when I said that?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes. The occasion on which the right hon. Gentleman said that was during the debate on the White Paper in March this year. I will give him the precise column reference later in the debate, before I sit down.
We shall aim to do at least as well in future years as we have this year and 989 thus to avoid the need for further redeployment. But, as the White Paper makes clear, there is little budgetary saving to be achieved from this type of redeployment. As I told the House over a year ago, the major budgetary savings must follow a reduction in our forces in the Far East. And this we were not able to begin negotiating until the end of confrontation last summer.
Our first step was to get our forces out of Borneo. By Easter this year we had reduced our overall manpower in the Far East by nearly 10,000. By next April we shall have reduced by 20,000, and in terms of British uniformed personnel and Gurkhas will be back to the pre-confrontation level. Considering the immense problems involved in moving and housing about 18,000 men and their families, this is not bad going for 18 months.
But, as the dust settled in South-East Asia following the end of confrontation, we found it possible and necessary to look further ahead. We have now agreed, after consultation with our allies in the area, that by some time in 1970–71 we should reduce those working in and for the Services in Malaysia and Singapore by a further 30,000—a total cut of 50 per cent. compared with the current level. The bulk of this reduction will fall on the Army.
We accept the view expressed a year ago by the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) thatour military contribution in this theatre of operations should be a balanced naval task force and air power, with the bias … tipped towards the sea and the naval task force".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1966; Vol. 727, c. 550.]Of course, as the right hon. Gentleman must have been well aware, when he said those words, this will create some problems for Australia and New Zealand in relation to the Commonwealth Brigade, and these are problems on which consultations are now proceeding. But our view is fully shared by the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore themselves, and, after all, it is the Malaysian Defence Agreement which is the main reason for our presence.
Both Malaysia and Singapore are building up their own land forces. The 990 Malaysian Army has already taken over the old British positions in Borneo with admirable smoothness and efficiency. The only threat which our Commonwealth partners do not feel confident of dealing with themselves by 1970 is the potential threat by air and sea. This we shall be fully capable of meeting with the forces that remain, and the House will probably have seen that the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia has publicly stated his satisfaction that this is so.
At the same time, we shall have progressively to alter our force declarations to S.E.A.T.O. contingency plans and in some cases increase the notice at which forces could be provided. I am glad to see that the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire agrees with us also on this. He pointed out on 4th March, 1965, that in S.E.A.T.O.each member has complete judgment about his own contribution … we should keep the necessary flexibility so that we can decide whether our contribution should be by sea or air or a combination of both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March, 1965; Vol. 707, c. 1545.]I only wish that the Daily Telegraph had taken note of that before it wrote its leading article this morning.
When we looked beyond 1970, it emerged that, once our presence in the Far East is reduced by one-half, once our commitments, particularly in S.E.A.T.O. are reduced, the sort of base facilities we maintain at present on the Asian mainland become very bad value for money indeed.
On the one hand, vast stockpiles of equipment require men to guard and maintain them and men to guard the men who guard them—plus houses, hospitals, schools, and so on, for their families—what the economists call a multiplier effect. In the second place, the equipment in the stockpiles needs duplicating at home so that the units which might use it can train efficiently, and the men who guard and maintain the base must also be duplicated at home so that they can be relieved after their tour of duty abroad.
A large fixed base just does not make sense, unless a large-scale war is in prospect in the area, particularly when the capability of air transport is growing and more and more equipment can be carried by air.
991 These were the practical factors of which we had to take account. There were no less important political factors, too. The United States has publicly announced that, once the Vietnam war is over, it wants no bases in Asia and is prepared to leave Vietnam. As we said in this year's Defence White Paper, we, too, must aim at a situation in which the local peoples can live at peace without the presence of external forces.
On a careful calculation of the likely trend of events, and after the most thorough consultation with our allies, we came to the conclusion that we should plan on winding up our bases in Malaysia and Singapore altogether in the middle 1970s. But we do plan to maintain thereafter a capability for military action in the area, and this has been welcomed by Australia and New Zealand, which have come to our aid in two world wars.
It is a capability which may be required not only by our political obligations, but also for peace-keeping under United Nations auspices.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
Will my right hon. Friend give us some indication of the nature of the capability—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am bipartisan. We cannot have two interventions at once. Which one is it to be?
§ Mr. Shinwell
May I follow up the point, because it seems to be a very important one, of the capability to which my right hon. Friend refers and which is to be capable after we come out of Singapore and Malaysia? Can my right hon. Friend tell us what is its nature?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes. It will consist mainly of on the spot amphibious forces, to which I shall refer later in my speech, but it will also be capable of being reinforced from the reserve forces in the United Kingdom, to which I shall also refer later in my speech. I now give way to the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew).
§ Mr. Goodhew
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. How does he 992 reconcile what he has just said with the statement written into the United States Congressional Record of 8th April, 1963, Col. 5513, by the Prime Minister when, at the National Press Club Luncheon in New York, he said:I believe it to be a mistake to evacuate key bases where we have the chance to remain. It is a hundred times easier for Britain to remain there even with a token force, than for us, still less the United States, to seek to enter if trouble breaks out".How can the Secretary of State reconcile that statement with what he has just said?
§ Mr. Healey
When the Prime Minister said that he did not mean that we should stay in a base that we do not need. We do not believe in staying in Aden, or in Singapore, or Malaysia once we have reduced our commitments and presence to the level we shall reduce them to by 1970, for the same reasons. I would have thought that that was obvious.
I think that the House will agree that this decision to wind up our bases in Singapore and Malaysia is without doubt the most important single decision in the White Paper, and it is a historic one. It was not possible to reach it earlier in view of the fact that confrontation ended less than 12 months ago, and we have needed to carry out the most prolonged and detailed consultations about our policy with our allies and partners in the Commonwealth.
As a result of this consultation, the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore—who are most directly concerned here—have accepted our decision and fully appreciate the reasons for it. I will not deny it faces them and us with some real problems of adjustment, but their reaction, to quote the Straits Times, on the spot, has been "realistic, sober and confident".
I believe that the overwhelming majority of opinion in Britain believes that it is the right decision, too. Even the Conservative Opposition have not chosen to contest it in principle. How could they, since their spokesman in another place set it as the right objective for Britain in his speech on the Defence White Paper last May?
I hope that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, who usually prefers to skulk behind his own verbal ambiguities and pedantic logic—chopping about the words that we use to describe 993 our policies—will come out honestly and clearly this afternoon and tell us whether the Conservative Opposition think our decisions right or not.
If his only criticism, as he said on television last week, is that having taken our decision we should have tried to keep it dark from the House, from our allies, and from the rest of the world, my right hon. Friend will deal with that criticism when he winds up the debate.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the right hon. Gentleman purporting to quote what I said, or is he, as usual, making up words and attributing them to me? If not, will he quote the context?
§ Mr. Healey
I regret that, again, I cannot at this moment quote the context, but I shall do so before I sit down.
As far as I can quote it from memory, when he was asked by Mr. George Ffitch whether he agreed that we should withdraw he replied, as he usually does, "That is not the real question. The question is whether we should have announced our intentions so long in advance", but I will do the right hon. Gentleman the courtesy of quoting his exact words before I sit down. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will continue interrupting me in that way, because I have here other quotations which I am going to use. They are from versions produced by the Conservative Central Office.
I am certain that on Singapore and Malaysia the Government are right in announcing their intentions in the terms they have. I am equally certain that we are right not to attempt to fix, still less to announce, a date for a withdrawal from our positions in the Persian Gulf. At the moment, we are making a vital contribution towards stability in the Gulf, a contribution welcomed by the local States who are not yet in agreement on how to handle the situation if and when we should withdraw.
Perhaps I might tell the House a story. I remember President Nasser remarking to me in a conversation when I was still in opposition that our presence in the Gulf is like that of the Arab caretaker in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. As the House may know, 994 the three Christian denominations which share the church in Jerusalem have never been able to agree with one another on which of them should be physically responsible for the building's security.
About 1,000 years ago they appointed an Arab family as caretaker, and its descendants are still performing that function. My only comment to President Nasser, when he drew that analogy, was that we had no intention of staying so long in the Gulf. But it would be equally wrong at this time to fix or announce a date for leaving.
By eliminating the wasteful duplication of men and equipment required for large fixed base facilities, by changing the size and composition of our forces in the Far East and reducing our commitments in parallel, we have been able to plan a substantial reduction in the size of all three Services and in the number of civilians who support them.
By the middle 'seventies, when our withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia is complete, the Armed Forces will contain about 75,000 fewer men and women than today, and there will be 80,000 fewer civilians serving the forces. We shall achieve roughly half of this reduction by April, 1971.
The Opposition Amendment claims that these cuts will make it impossible for the Services to do their job. I suppose they are judging from their own experience, because the only time they made a big cut in the forces was when the hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) hacked blindly at our military capability without any attempt to think the problem through—relying on Blue Streak instead of aircraft, for example. In his 1957 White Paper he envisaged Armed Services of 375,000 men—a cut of 47 per cent. on the level obtaining at the time.
But at that time our commitments were far bigger than they are today. We had the Baghdad Pact, the defence of Aden, and garrisons for British Colonies and Protectorates all over the word. The Conservative Government were still fighting to prevent Cyprus from gaining its independence, and they also had a major emergency to cope with in Malaya.
Then, when the right hon. Gentleman passed to the Commonwealth Office, he dumped a great load of new commitments on the forces he had cut—the South 995 Arabian Federation and confrontation in the Far East—so that 1964 our forces were over-stretched almost to breaking point.
The present Government have brought confrontation to a successful end; our last defence commitments in South Arabia will soon be over; and nearly all the colonial commitments we had when the Conservatives planned their massive cut in our forces are now ended. As I said, we are going to make substantial reductions in the force declarations to S.E.A.T.O. which were made by the Conservative Government, and our commitment to Malaysia will be carried out mainly with air and naval forces, as the Opposition recommend.
Yet we shall still have 350,000 British based adult males in the Services in April, 1971, only a fraction fewer than the previous Government planned against a background of far greater and still increasing commitments. The fact is that the policy I have outlined, and the reductions in our military commitments which have taken place or have been decided on, will relax the over-stretch from which our forces have suffered for so many years, and leave a larger reserve in Britain for dealing with the unforeseen contingencies.
The forces will be infinitely better able to carry out their tasks than when the Conservatives left power.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home (Kinross and West Perthshire)
The right hon. Gentleman said that these defence reductions were the result of major alterations in foreign policy. I have not heard him name any major alterations in foreign policy. Indeed, the S.E.A.T.O. commitment is there, although he may not be able to fulfil it.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will reflect on what he said in 1965, and then withdraw that last remark. He made the point that we had the perfect right, and must exercise it, to reduce our force declarations to S.E.A.T.O., or change them whenever we wished to do so. Such a reduction or change constitutes a major change in foreign policy. The decision to leave Singapore and Malaysia has many important impacts on our foreign policy in that area, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree.
§ Sir Alec Douglas-Home
The right hon. Gentleman said that these reductions resulted from major changes in foreign policy. What he is now saying is that he has made reductions in the forces, and, therefore, the foreign policy has to be changed.
§ Mr. Healey
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, we have not made these reductions. They will be made over the next five to 10 years. The change in foreign policy has been made already, but the change in our commitments will be made progressively as our forces are reduced.
I will now explain how our plans will affect the individual Services. The Royal Navy will provide, through its Polaris submarines, Britain's contribution to N.A.T.O's strategic deterrent and will make a bigger contribution than any other European navy to N.A.T.O.'s shield forces in the Atlantic. Outside Europe, the Navy, in the 1970s, will have the main responsibility for maintaining Britain's military influence and her contribution towards keeping the peace.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that we shall spend £370 million for four Polaris submarines, which is a much bigger sum than the Tory Government spent? How does he explain this?
§ Mr. Healey
That figure is completely false. We have already spent the bulk of the capital expenditure involved in creating the Polaris force. The capital expenditure is substantially reduced, partly because we are cutting the force by one boat and partly for other reasons with which I will not bother the House, connected with the cost of the missiles in the United States. The cost of the four boats, which will be completed in about a year's time, will be under 1 per cent. of the defence budget and 0.001 per cent.—I may have this wrong—of the gross national product.
§ Mr. Healey
My hon. Friend is mixing up the total cost of the programme since it began with the amount that still remains to be spent. The programme has been running now since 1963—for four years—and the bulk of the capital expenditure has already been committed.
997 We will keep our powerful amphibious forces, with the Royal Marine Commandos, in the Far East and they will be supported by destroyers, frigates and submarines. Our two largest aircraft carriers, "Eagle" and "Ark Royal", modernised and equipped with Phantom aircraft, will continue in service until the middle 'seventies. Such naval forces have special advantages in peace-keeping overseas through their flexibility. They can remain poised for long periods visible or invisible at will, and are a powerful deterrent to aggression.
As the carriers phase out in the middle 1970s three new classes of ship will be introduced—the new cruisers, Sea Dart destroyers and frigates, all equipped with missiles and helicopters. The functions now carried out by our aircraft carriers in protecting the Fleet at short range will continue to be mainly carried out by the Fleet itself; its helicopters will give it its own means of reconnaissance and attack against a surface as well as a submarine threat.
The longer range functions of the carrier will be carried out partly by the Fleet submarines and partly by aircraft of the Royal Air Force controlled by the new cruisers. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is not satisfied with this, perhaps he will come clean and tell us whether the Conservative Opposition are now firmly committed to keep the carrier force going after the middle 1970s at a cost of up to £200 million a year and operating solely east of Suez.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, who has shilly-shallied and dodged this question repeatedly for the last two years, will tell us what he intends. If not, perhaps the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) will do so. Otherwise, let the right 'hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West "belt up" on this issue.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us where the aircraft which are supposed to be replacing the aircraft which hitherto would be flying off the decks of aircraft carriers will be based?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes. Up to 1975 the aircraft will be based at Bahrein, Masirah, Gan, the Cocos Islands—and Australia if she is involved—and Singapore. After 998 1975 they will no longer be based on Singapore, but, as the White Paper makes clear, we are discussing the possibility of using facilities provided by the Australians in Northern Australia, and there is no reason why, should a particular emergency arise, we should not operate from bases in any allied country to whose help we come. We made it clear in the Defence Review two years ago that we depended on the readiness of our allies to provide the bases that we needed in such cases.
In the 1970s the main rôle of the Army will be in Europe, but with the withdrawal from Aden an additional brigade will be added to the Strategic Reserve for operations anywhere in the world. This force will be airportable with specialised training for a wide variety of rôles. Training overseas will be even more important than it is today, since more of the Army will be permanently stationed in Britain.
With the cuts in its commitments outside Europe, the Army will be reduced by 15,000 all ranks by April, 1971. As we say in the White Paper, this involves the disappearance of 17 major units. Many of these are regiments with long and distinguished histories. The necessity for their disappearance is particularly painful, but I am glad to say that we shall be able, like the Conservative Government in similar circumstances, to preserve time-honoured traditions and probably some famous regimental names through the merging of regimental identities in many cases.
The reorganisation of the infantry, about which I informed the House in May, will preserve the best features of the regimental tradition while ensuring that the Army is able to make the best and most economical use of its limited and expensive manpower.
§ Mr. Oscar Murton (Poole)
How can the right hon. Gentleman preserve the best regimental traditions if some regiments disappear completely and are not amalgamated?
§ Mr. Healey
In those cases it will not be possible to preserve regimental traditions. The Conservative Government faced this problem sensibly after the cut which the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) imposed, and 999 there are now a large number of battalions in the British Army formed by merging famous regiments which continue to maintain the traditions of their regiments. I am glad to say that my contacts with such battalions during the last three years all over the world suggest that the mergers have been a complete success.
Some Members, I know, are concerned how the Gurkha Brigade will be affected by these new plans. The Times published a wise leader on this subject the other day, and I fully agree with what it said. Some further reductions in the Gurkha Brigade may be necessary when those already announced have been completed in 1969, but we must see how we go on this issue.
It would be a great mistake to take a final decision now, before we are clearer about the way in which our plans develop in detail. And of course, we should have to consult the Government of Nepal before deciding on any further reduction.
So far as the Royal Air Force is concerned, our new plans will be reflected in reductions in size rather than changes in shape. The Royal Air Force will continue to play its essential role in guarding the nation's security by long-range tactical strike and reconnaissance, and by the provision of air support and air defence for the Army and Navy at home and overseas. With a higher proportion of our forces in the United Kingdom, the Royal Air Force will provide the necessary strategic mobility, and flexibility with its transport aircraft always at a high level of operational readiness.
The Service is now engaged in a large-scale process of re-equipment with modern high-performance aircraft arising mainly from decisions taken by the Government two years ago. Twenty of the new Hercules transport aircraft are already in this country and the Phantoms are coming in next year.
The year 1969 will be a most important one. The Royal Air Force will then begin to receive P1127s and the F111. The maritime Comet—now known as Nimrod—and the Chinook heavy-lift helicopter are already coming into service. The only major unresolved equipment problem lies far ahead—it is that part of the tactical strike reconnaissance role which the V-bombers will cease to carry out after the middle 'seventies.
1000 The main impact of our new plans here is that we can afford to give a higher priority to the requirements of the European theatre. This should make it easier to reach agreement with customers or collaborators among our other N.A.T.O. allies now that France has withdrawn from the A.F.V.G. project.
All three Services in the 1970s will require a degree of professional skill unsurpassed in any other profession, as well as the courage, enterprise and endurance which have been the hallmark of the fighting man throughout the ages. I would like to take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the fine way in which the Services have displayed these qualities under the pressures of recent years.
As the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester (Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles) wrote in a letter in today's Daily Telegraph—and I thank him for writing the letter:The services will remain a stable and exciting career for any young man with these qualities in future.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
What proportion of our defence will depend on various types of nuclear weapons by the mid-'seventies?
§ Mr. Healey
I do not quite know what the hon. Gentleman means by that question in that form, but the proportion of our defence expenditure which will go on nuclear weapons at that time will be below 1 per cent.
§ Mr. McMaster
I was not referring so much to expenditure as to the extent to which we will depend on nuclear weapons.
§ Mr. Healey
That is a totally different question which it is difficult to answer in a moment. In Europe, which is the only theatre in which we have any expectation of using nuclear weapons, provided that our allies do as we do, our dependence on nuclear weapons will be very much as it is today; no greater and no less.
Perhaps I can take advantage of this natural break, so to speak, to remind 1001 the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West of the words he asked me to quote. [HON. MEMBERS: "Come on."] I assure the House that I have this information, but I will answer the other question first. In doing so, I apologise to the House for having to refer to the right hon. Gentleman by name. I must do so if I am to quote him accurately.
George Ffitch asked:Mr. Powell. Do you agree with the main theme of the White Paper that Britain should pull out of the Far East by the mid 1970s?Then:Mr. Enoch Powell. 'I don't think it's so much a question of whether by the mid 1970s we have ceased to be present in force ashore on the mainland of Asia; I think it's a question of what you say about it now …'I will refresh the right hon. Gentleman's defective memory in respect of the other speech to which I referred. In the debate on 27th February last the right hon. Gentleman estimated that the total that we would get from Germany this year would be £12½ million, plus £31½ million. He said:These two sums together, taking them at their utmost"—whatever he meant by that—add up to £44 million—approximately half of the year's cost of the present strength of our forces in Germany.That was exactly what I had said the right hon. Gentleman said.
§ Mr. Powell rose—
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman alleged—and I am within the recollection of the House—that I said that we would be lucky if half the costs were recovered. The paragraph which he just quoted begins with the words:So far as is known what has been achieved is as follows".I ended that paragraph by saying:If that is still the situation at the end of June, does that mean that half our forces will then be withdraw from B.A.O.R.?"[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th February, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 125.]In other words, the right hon. Gentleman has, as usual, utterly falsified what I said.
§ Mr. Healey
That is precisely the type of pedantic nit-picking about words for which the right hon. Gentleman has become famous throughout the world, during the last three years in defence debates. I have plenty more quotations with me and I will certainly quote the right hon. Gentleman.
As the White Paper makes clear, the great majority of the 75,000 reduction in our Services by the middle 'seventies will be achieved through normal wastage as men complete their engagements. Redundancies as such will average 2,500 to 3,000 a year, though they will not be evenly spread from year to year.
We aim to organise the rundown in such a way as to maintain or restore, where necessary, the career prospects for those who stay in the forces and to ensure that the forces have a proper balance of ranks, seniorities, ages and specialists. Applications will be invited from the appropriate categories to leave the Service early when redundancy is expected. There will have to be some compulsory redundancies and we aim to give at least six months' notice to all those affected. Compensation terms for those made redundant have already been circulated in detail within the Services.
I will give two examples. An R.A.F. squadron leader retired at the age of 40 with 19½ years' reckonable service will receive a lump sum of £3,417 in addition to his retired pay and terminal grant. An army warrant officer Class I (Technician) with 17 years' reckonable service will receive a lump sum of £1,364 in addition to his pension and terminal grant; he will also receive a credit of service for pension purposes which will give him additional pension and terminal grant to a capitalised value nearly equal to his lump sum. I think that the House will agree that this is fair and reasonable compensation.
We are also increasing resettlement facilities to meet the increased requirement and shall make greater use of the arrangements which already exist for attachment to civilian firms and organisations for resettlement training.
The immediate impact of redundancy will be small. During the next 12 months, the Army will lose about 350 officers and 600 soldiers, the R.A.F. about 500 1003 officers—mainly in the general duties flying branch, and about 500 airmen aircrew. Because it-has been short of manpower for some time, the Royal Navy is unlikely to have any redundancies until about 1970, and then not in all branches.
There is one point I should stress here. Surprising as it may appear at first sight, the requirement for new recruits will be only marginally affected by the rundown. About 40,000 Servicemen leave the Services every year in normal circumstances and have to be replaced. Thus, the annual redundancies we foresee will have only a marginal impact on the need for new recruits. In the case of a Service now short of men, like the Royal Navy, we shall continue to need the same number of recruits as we are getting today.
Moreover, recruiting staffs are having to operate in a hardening market. As the post-war bulge dies away the pool of young men in the relevant age groups is becoming smaller. Boys are tending to stay longer at school and, particularly in the technical arms, competition with industry grows fiercer year by year and the standard required by the Services rises year by year. Indeed, work we have been doing over the last 12 months suggests that manpower difficulties might well have compelled us to reduce Service ceilings even if there had not been sound political and economic reasons for doing so.
The reductions in Service manpower will be matched by corresponding reductions among civilians working for the Services. Of the 80,000 reductions we expect by the mid 'seventies, about 30,000 will be United Kingdom employees and 50,000 local entrants employed by the Ministry of Defence overseas. We shall, of course, have full consultations with the staff associations and trade unions as the rundown develops.
§ Mr. J. D. Concannon (Mansfield)
I have already received two letters from constituents on this vital point. For members of the Army who are now ready for release or whose time has nearly expired, if they wish—or, perhaps, have already applied—to sign on for another stretch, perhaps of seven years, what is their position?
§ Mr. Healey
Those who wish to stay on will be given advice about whether they are running any risk of redundancy. 1004 This will be dealt with on an individual basis in the unit concerned. If my hon. Friend has any specific cases, I hope that he will write to me, whereupon I will do my best to advise him.
I turn to the economic consequences of this major reshaping of our military commitments and capabilities. We expect to remain at all times below the original Defence Review ceiling of £2,000 million a year, at 1964 prices. This means a reduction of more than £400 million in the Conservative programme for 1969–70.
In 1970–71 we expect our defence budget to be £1,900 million at constant prices, despite the high incidence of expenditure on new equipment in that year. In the middle 1970s, when withdrawal from Singapore and Malaysia is complete, we expect to be down to £1,800 million a year, although the equipment of our forces will then be far more efficient, sophisticated and expensive than it is today.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, West)
Will my right hon. Friend give way? This is quite a straightforward question. Does the 1975 budget of £1,800 million include provision for the continuance of our presence in the Persian Gulf and for the continuance of our obligations under the Anglo-Malaysia Treaty?
§ Mr. Healey
Yes. In both cases it includes it. I shall have a word to say in a moment about the foreign exchange effect of that. I wonder what guilt or embarrassment led my right hon. Friend to preface his remarks with that exordium.
Assuming a 3 per cent. annual rate of economic growth, this should represent under 5 per cent. of our G.N.P. compared with the 7 per cent. the Conservatives envisaged—putting us well in line with our major European allies. This is a massive contribution to strengthening our national economy and making valuable resources available for other purposes.
The achievement in reducing the strain of defence on our balance of payments will be even more dramatic. Our stationing costs in areas other than Germany will be reduced from £173 million this year to £120 million in 1970–71, and to £60 million or less by the mid-1970s—a total reduction of about two-thirds on the level today.
1005 Under the Conservative Administration the impact of defence on our balance of payments was completely ignored. Hon. Members will search in vain in the Defence White Papers published during the lifetime of the previous Government for any statistics of overseas stationing costs. Yet, in fact, between 1957 and 1964 military expenditure overseas more than doubled. It increased from about £120 million to about £250 million.
But there is no sign that the long succession of right hon. Gentlemen opposite who were responsible for defence policy at that time ever noticed that increase. Perhaps the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), will tell us whether he noticed it when, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, he gave us an £800 million deficit on the balance of payments, and if so, what he did about it. It would be interesting to have an answer to that question tonight.
We on this side of the House have done far better than even we originally planned. Our original target in the Defence Review was to cut our stationing costs by a quarter by the end of the decade. In fact, we have achieved more than that already. In round figures the stationing cost in 1964 was running at £275 million a year. From this had to be deducted the proceeds of the German offset agreement—only £24 million in 1964–65—giving a net cost of £250 million. In the current year our total stationing costs outside Germany are estimated at £173 million.
To this we have to add the £11 million net costs of our forces in Germany after the offset agreement of £69 million negotiated by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State at the Foreign Office. Thus, our total stationing costs on defence this year are only £184 million compared with about £250 million in the last year of the previous Government—a reduction of more than one quarter. And we shall have reduced this net total by two-thirds in the middle 1970s. Our foreign stationing costs will then be only a quarter of what they were when we assumed office.
§ Mr. Woodrow Wyatt (Bosworth) rose—>—
§ Mr. Healey
With respect to my hon. Friend, I must get on.
1006 We are asking the House to approve this White Paper because for the first time since the Second World War it brings Britain's foreign policy and defence policy into balance with one another, and with the nation's economic and social objectives at home. It builds a stable, longterm relationship between cost, commitments, and capabilities of defence. There is no evidence that the party opposite, whose Amendment we are also debating, ever attempted this when it was in office. It certainly never succeeded.
In opposition, the Conservatives have not even tried. They have shown a blind indifference to the economic cost of defence and are totally divided on the commitments which our defence forces should be capable of meeting. That is why, over the last three years, they have confined themselves to a dreary and pedantic nagging, and have steadfastly refused every invitation to tell us what they would do in our place.
§ Mr. Healey
Even in Europe, although most of the Front Bench opposite seems to be in full agreement with the Government, the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West is still ploughing his lonely furrow. He is the only leading politician in the Western world who believes that we should be preparing ourselves to fight and win a large-scale conventional war in Europe. And he keeps insisting that Britain's defence policy must recognise the fact that Britain is insular as well as European.
On Saturday, 8th July, the right hon. Member told the faithful on Ripon racecourse—a well chosen location—thatwe must have the maritime capability appropriate to a nation which is not only European, but insular.He added:and oceanic",for he likes to cover all his bets. He seems to be sliding back to the extraordinary view he held some time ago, when he said:The two great objects of British foreign policy ought to be to facilitate the defence by air/sea power alone of the British territories and to secure a stable balance of power in Europe without Britain".If the right hon. Gentleman is not going back to that view which he once held, will he tell us precisely what he 1007 means by using the word "insular" in respect of our defence policy as he has been doing regularly in recent times?
§ Mr. Powell rose—
§ Mr. Healey
The article, which also said that we should support France in Vietnam so that France could reduce our burden in Europe, was in 1954. But if the right hon. Gentleman does not now mean by "insular" what he meant then, will he tell us, when he speaks, precisely what he means?
In the Middle East the split in the Conservative Party is a yawning chasm. Only the other day the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West seemed to be arguing that we should clear out altogether. He poured scorn on what he termed the co-called British presence in the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Perhaps he will tell us what he meant by "so-called". He suggestedIt was just because we were physically present in the area that our oil and our reserves were in danger when other peoples were not".This brought out the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire with a well-merited public rebuke. He told the House only last week:Because the Arabs momentarily cut off oil supplies, I cannot follow the argument that there are no political or economic advantages which a British presence can gain anywhere and that, therefore, we should go and go now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July 1967; Vol. 750, c. 2487.]Will the Opposition please tell us tonight—they have repeatedly failed to tell us over the last three years—do they think that we should keep the Aden base, as they promised to do in 1964? Would they stay in the Gulf and, if so, for how long? What is their policy?
On the Far East the split on the Conservative Front Bench is even starker. The high peak of contradiction in the Conservative Party was scaled in this year's defence debates, when the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West sat white and rigid on the Front 1008 Bench opposite while at his side the hon. and gallant Member for Winchester argued that Britain should send ships and troops to fight in Vietnam. Is that Conservative Party policy or not? May we have an answer to that question later tonight?
Last week the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire reminded the House that he was constantly urging the Foreign Secretary to get S.E.A.T.O. reorganised, but what does the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West say about that? To urgethat Britain in 1967 can take a leading role in reinvigorating the military alliance in South East Asia … seems to me not to be an act of imagination but … a symptom of hallucination. Rather like listening to Rip van Winkle talking. One might … not be startled to hear that sort of phraseology … from Indian Army colonels who retired years ago … the reality which is relevant … is that we have and can exert virtually no military power in South East Asia.That is the Opposition spokesman on defence, the self-appointed champion of the Services, the forces' friend, speaking just after the successful end of confrontation.… we have and can exert virtually no military power in South East Asia",he said. Is that the official view of the Opposition on the three years of fighting in Borneo? This was one of the most successful politico-military campaigns in our national history, and I am not surprised that the right hon. Member for Barnet launched a massive attack against his right hon. Friend in the Sunday Times the other day, on the theme,We must not indulge in the fashionable sport of belittling our own role in the world.I agree with the right hon. Member for Barnet. It is about time that the official Opposition spokesman on defence stopped it or that the Opposition got another spokesman.
Holding the views he does, how can the right hon. Member for Barnet speak in support of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West today? And how on earth can the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West continue to sit side by side with all these Rip van Winkles and retired Indian Army colonels on the Opposition Front Bench? I suppose the answer is that adversity makes strange bedfellows.
Other than adversity, there is only one factor which unites the right hon. 1009 Member for Wolverhampton, South-West with his colleagues on the Front Bench opposite. That is a terrifying, titanic and total indifference to the cost of defence. The hon. Member for St. Albans, in a recent debate, told us that it was the job of the Defence Secretary to give the Services anything they asked for and to resign if he failed to get it from the Cabinet. Perhaps that is why the party opposite had eight separate Ministers of Defence during the thirteen years they were in power.
§ Mr. Goodhew
If the right hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory by reading the report of that debate, he will see that I said that his duty was to provide the Services with the weapons they needed to carry out the task given to them, and not to give them all they wanted. He need not misquote me as well as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West.
§ Mr. Healey
At a natural break in a moment, I will quote the hon. Member's words. He made it clear that I should always take the advice of the Services on the equipment they needed. The fact is that even a Conservative Government cannot ignore the cost of defence forever. What the Conservatives did with dogged regularity was to ignore the cost of defence during the planning and development stages of every project and then cancel the project when the expenditure became too high.
That is why in the aerospace field alone they cancelled 30 separate projects on which£200 million had already been spent and left the Royal Air Force worse equipped with supersonic aircraft than Egypt and Indonesia.
§ Mr. Healey
The changes we have made in the programme we inherited from the Conservative Government have already saved the British taxpayer over £750 million during the last three years alone. The further savings announced in this White Paper will raise the rate of saving on Tory plans to £500 million a year in 1971 and something like £800 million a year in the middle 1970s. It is no good the Conservatives arguing that 1010 they did not have these plans or that they would not have cost so much.
§ Mr. Healey
I know that the hon. Member for Louth (Sir C. Osborne) does not enjoy this, but many hon. Members are enjoying it.
The figures I have quoted come straight from the long-term costings I found in the Ministry of Defence when I took office in 1964, just after the right hon. Member for Barnet gave up such languid control of the nation's financial plans as he ever attempted. But, of course, his motto as Chancellor of the Exchequer, as he made clear again the other day, was, "Don't worry, it may never happen."
The right hon. Gentleman may say that the Conservatives would have cut these plans in any case. But they have divided the House against every single cut we have made and have never given a hint of whether they would have made other cuts instead. If they would have made other cuts, let them tell us now what cuts. We have been trying to find out for three years.
But right hon. Members opposite cannot answer, for the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, speaking with all the responsibility which he rightly says should invest a Shadow Minister of Defence, has committed his party to a mountain of new expenditure on top even of the plans of the previous Administration. He wants… 'an army in being' … equal in armament, training and philosophy to any other in Europe …capable of fighting and winning a conventional war against the whole might of the Red Army. He wants us to be able to achieve command of the sea and command of the air on our own. Has he ever thought what this would cost? He always says that he has not the necessary facilities to do this sort of calculation.
§ Mr. Powell
The right hon. Gentleman has given us a bit of fiction about our fighting and winning a war against the whole might of the Red Army. I happen to have the passage he refers to with me, and I will supply the House, if I may, with what I actually said, and not what he imagines and attributes to me. I said:… 'an army in being' … equal in armament, training and philosophy to any 1011 other in Europe, and of such dimensions and structure, and supported by such reserves, as to be able, and to be seen to be able, to play an important and continuing part in Continental warfare"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1967; Vol. 742, c. 1201.]That is what I said.
§ Mr. Healey rose—
§ Mr. Healey rose—
§ Mr. Stephen Hastings (Mid-Bedfordshire)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It is now clear, at least to this side of the House, that the Defence Secretary has grossly misquoted my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) on three occasions. Would it not be consistent with the ordinary courtesy of the House for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. That is not a point of order. I think that the purpose of the House would be best served if this matter were dealt with in debate.
§ Mr. Healey
On that point, I was not quoting the passage the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) has just quoted. I referred to fighting and winning a conventional war in Europe because the right hon. Gentleman put that view in an earlier speech when he argued with great force that it was obscene and immoral for us to cut the Territorial Army because we must be capable of winning a war in Europe without resort to nuclear weapons. He has recently written a review of a book by General Beaufre in the Sunday Times—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. This is a very important debate. The Defence Secretary is responsible for the statements he makes. I hope that hon. Members will remember that a large number of hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. I hope that we shall not lose any more time.
§ Mr. Healey
I hope that the House will recall that I have given way on at least 17 occasions to interruptions. I hope they will now allow me to conclude without further interruption.
1012 Does the right hon. Gentleman ever think of what all this programme of his would cost? He may say that he has not the facilities to do this sort of work. He often has said it. So I have asked my officials to take his speeches, assume that they are mine, and let me know what would be required on the most restrictive interpretation of his words. The answer, in very rough orders of magnitude, is as follows. The right hon. Gentleman's Army would cost £900 million more than our present Army; his Navy would cost £1,000 million more; his Air Force would cost about £800 million more if it were to provide a defence system against the Soviet manned bombers alone. That is a figure of £2,700 million over the next ten years. But it does not take into account two clear implications of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. If in fact, we were to prepare, as the right hon. Gentleman has repeatedly asked, to fight a long drawn out conventional war, the very much larger war reserves, training facilities and other infrastructure would cost at least another £2,000 million—nearly £5,000 million extra altogether.
The right hon. Gentleman does not seem prepared to accept the fact that the Soviet Union has missiles as well as aircraft. I regret to tell the House that my officials broke down and wept when they were asked to cost an effective antiballistic missile system for the United Kingdom. All I can say is that the United States, which has already developed most of the sort of hardware which would be required, has estimated the cost at nearly £15,000 million. The defence policy of the official Conservative spokesman would cost us at least another £2,000 million a year—over twice the cost of the policy of the present Government.
The fascinating thing is that this is the defence policy of a party which pledged itself only on Monday to reduce Government expenditure and cut taxation. I hope that the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), who knows something of economics, will tell us how these objectives are to be reconciled with the defence policy he supports. To use the words of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West, either his defence policy or his leader's fiscal policy is a colossal structure of spoof. Perhaps 1013 the Leader of the Opposition will tell us which twin is the phoney? The answer, of course, is both. The policy of Conservative Opposition is phoney through and through. It is bogus to the bootstraps.
We are all waiting to hear from the high priest of humbug, the bishop of bogus, the Savanarola of spoof himself. In asking the House to support the Government's Motion, I ask it to reject his Amendment with a majority which is overwhelming, final and complete.
§ Mr. Goodhew
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman misquoted something which I said. He said that he would read it to the House before he finished his speech. As he failed to do so, may I read it to him?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman will have to endeavour to catch my eye and make a correction in due course.
§ 5.13 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I beg to move to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof'regrets that the proposals in the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1967, Command Paper No. 3357, gravely impair the capability of the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force to meet all the demands that may be made on them'.It will not have escaped the notice of the House that the words in the Amendment are taken from the White Paper itself and that they are a reference to that extraordinary sentence in the last paragraph:The Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force, though reduced in size, will be capable of meeting all the demands that may be made on them"—words of such over-weening self-confidence and presumption that anyone but the Secretary of State would have hesitated to pen them, fearing the nemesis which attends upon the empty boast.
It is a great inconvenience that the House should at this time of year be having to debate for the first time a major and substantive statement of the Government's defence policy. In our Parliamentary year we have six days available for debating the Government's defence policy and the Service Estimates, and it is a severe infringement of the ability of the 1014 House to examine the Government's policy that we should have been presented with this statement right at the end of the Session when the House is about to rise for the Recess. It is, however, one of the inconveniences of having a planning Government that we now have budgets in July, November and February as well as in the normal season. Therefore, I suppose that it was only to have been expected that we should have the Defence Estimates on the verge of August.
When the original Defence Review—the so-called Defence Review—was published nearly 18 months ago, in February, 1966, I said thatthe nature of some of the decisions and the timing of others has been forced upon the Government by their own absurd preoccupation with fudging a figure of £2,000 million in 1969–70 regardless of the consequences for the morale of the Services or the defence of the country"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725. c. 241–2.]That is already proving to have been correct. But the proof has been overtaken by a repetition on a much greater scale of the same fundamental mistake.
Eighteen months ago the Government picked with a pin the percentage of 6 per cent. of the gross national product which they said would be the right figure for defence expenditure three to four years ahead, in 1969–70, and upon the basis of their late National Plan they translated this into £2,000 million at 1964 prices. They have now in this Statement produced further arbitrary figures of £1,900 million in 1970–71 and £1,800 million in 1975–76—eight or nine years ahead. What percentage of the gross national product that will be no one knows, least of all the Government. But, at the favourite growth rate of the Chancellor of the Exchequer of 3 per cent. per annum, that would bring the fraction down to 4.8 per cent. of the gross national product, to which, I presume, therefore, some special significance and superstitious reverence must attach.
It is from these budgetary figures eight or nine years ahead that the Government's plans in this Defence White Paper are deduced; for the effect on overseas expenditure is comparatively slight, seen in the context of the time factor. As the White Paper points out on page 11, the effect in the first phrase of the proposals now before the House will be a reduction 1015 only from £152 million to £120 million a year—that is, just over £10 million a year of overseas expenditure, an almost inexpressibly small proportion of our total overseas earnings—and a similar figure, about £10 to £12 million per annum, in the following five years.
This is absolutely topsy-turvy—the notion of beginning with a figure years ahead and seeking to work backwards from that to the composition, size and commitments of the defence forces. As Professor Martin put it in the Spectator a few days ago,there is no reason to believe that figures which are budgetarily convenient are strategically sound".It is no good the Secretary of State producing, as he did again today, those alleged figures of Conservative expenditure which would have taken place in the years which he is surveying—his bogy of the "runaway train" of Conservative defence expenditure.
§ Mr. Barnett rose—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Sydney Irving)
Order. The right hon. Gentleman has indicated that he is not giving way.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member will find that I am dealing with exactly the point which he was going to put.
§ Mr. Barnett
The right hon. Gentleman cannot know what I was going to put until he hears it. Is he arguing that it is not important to make even what he calls comparatively tiny savings in foreign exchange costs? Perhaps he will enlighten us whether he feels that it is not necessary for the Government to make those foreign exchange savings.
§ Mr. Powell
I said that those savings were trivial in relation to the interests and considerations involved and that not they but budgetary figures have been the guiding consideration in the Government's calculations.
I come to what is the permanent and enduring answer to all these gibes and charges of the Secretary of State. I remind 1016 the House again that during the years of Conservative administration there was a fall in the percentage of a rising gross national product that was spent upon defence, a fall between 1957–58 and the last year of our administration—1964–65—from 7.3 to 6.5 of, I repeat, a rapidly rising gross national product.
At the end of that period the right hon. Gentleman inherited defence forces which were the best weapon that any Defence Minister in this country has ever had. [Interruption.] Do not hon. Members opposite agree with that? [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I am surprised at that, because those words are not mine. They are the words of the Secretary of State, who, when he came into office and had had time, as the Foreign Secretary was so fond of saying in those years, to look at the books, said:I agree with the right hon. Member for for Monmouth"—that was, Mr. Peter Thorneycroft—that he has handed over to me the best weapon that any Defence Minister in this country has yet had".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 1026.]
§ Mr. Healey
The right hon. Gentleman may recall that this was dragged up sometime earlier. I was referring to the organisation inside the Ministry of Defence and not the equipment of our forces.
§ Mr. Powell
Anyone is free to look up the whole passage, as I have done repeatedly before I called the right hon. Gentleman into the witness box on so important a point.
It will be forces not deserving anything like that commendation which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will hand on to a future Conservative Minister of Defence.
The crazy process of picking a distant budgetary figure and arguing everything backwards from it has, in the first place, involved the Government in the premature decision and announcement of dates for the reduction and withdrawal of our forces from the Far East. I warned the right hon. Gentleman against this some months ago.
§ Mr. Healey
Perhaps I may help the House and the right hon. Gentleman on both issues by quoting from the 1962 White Paper of the Conservative Government, which said that the defence budget 1017 would be 7 per cent. for the following years up to 1970 and that it was their aim to see that the percentage of the gross national product should not rise significantly, although some increase in cost in absolute terms was to be expected.
§ Mr. Powell
There is the record of Conservative administration; there is the result; and there is the estimate which the Secretary of State himself made of it.
I warned the right hon. Gentleman tobear in mind, in the light of the lessons of Aden, the inadvisability of making long-range dated forecasts of withdrawals without knowledge of the circumstances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1967; Vol. 746, c. 91.]If he would not listen to me, at least he might have listened to his right hon. Friend who is now Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, who was then Foreign Secretary, who said in the debate a year ago:it is difficult to prophesy in advance what the situation in the Far East in the 1970s will be. What I am sure would be wrong would be for us to take a decision now which would make it certain that whatever was happening in the Far East then, we could in no way influence it".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March. 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1957.]What has happened in the last 17 months to change that advice of the right hon. Gentleman? What has happened, of course, is that the Government have adopted new and still lower budgetary figures. And so they have repeated the error of Aden, but on a larger scale. By announcing, in advance, in clear, against the advice of all our friends and allies in the area, specific long-term dates for withdrawal, the Government have risked setting in train a competitive movement among all the hostile elements to get us out sooner.
That sort of thing brings into action a kind of Gresham's law whereby the bad drives out the good, or a Dutch auction where the prize always goes to those forces and elements which underbid and undertake to see that the period of our presence there shall be shorter still.
The Government have done this at the worst conceivable moment, at a tragically dangerous moment, in the light of the delicate situation in Hong Kong. Nothing could be calculated to influence 1018 the difficult and dangerous management of our position in Hong Kong more unfavourably than to have taken this decision and made this announcement here and now.
By doing this—and this will be a replay on a much larger scale of what we have seen already—
§ Mr. Powell
I will finish the sentence—by doing this, the Government have wantonly endangered all the large interests, financial and economic, which this country has in that area.
In that connection, we find that the Government constantly refer to reduction of their commitments. There is a passage in the White Paper about it. If the House will look at page 5 of the White Paper, it is remarkable and significant that the reduction in the forces is referred to first and that we then come to the reduction—or "change", as it is expressed—in our Far East commitments.
After setting out the reductions, the White Paper goes on to say in paragraph 7:In parallel with these reductions, we intend to change our Far East commitments.Then follows the remarkable statement thatWe shall continue to honour our obligations under S.E.A.T.O., but the forces assigned to specific S.E.A.T.O. plans will be progressively altered in nature and size.
§ Mr. Powell
I am in the middle of an argument. I will certainly give way to the hon. Member before I leave it.
There is, obviously, a significant difference in the minds of the Government between commitments and obligations. As Lord Longford is recorded as having said in another place two days ago,distinction is drawn between commitments and obligations. 'Commitments' in the modern phraseology"—I rather like that—refers to the method of carrying out obligations."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 25th July, 1967; Vol. 285. c. 795.]The same distinction was made by the right hon. Gentleman in a television interview. He said:From the defence point of view a commitment is the declaration of forces to a plan, 1019 and we are planning to cut very drastically our commitments to S.E.A.T.O. in this sense. That does not mean we shall have to abandon the Treaty any more than France and Pakistan, which have cut their military commitments very much more drastically but not decided to leave the Treaty.On being questioned further he said:We are retaining our commitment to defend Malaysia which we think is very important".So presumably the forces are the same: presumably as the word "commitment" is here used, the declaration of forces is the same: there is no change there, butWe are revising very substantially our S.E.A.T.O. commitments in the way I have just mentioned.I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman. I did not find that he clarified the position to the House as to what this change was in the forces which we had declared to S.E.A.T.O., this change upon which, apparently, the whole of the alteration in our dispositions and the subsequent scaling down of our forces is supposed to hinge.
Perhaps the matter was rather well put for the Government by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in another place in this passage:If defence policy is to be the handmaiden of foreign policy, then it is possible to ensure that the commitments go away."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 25th July, 1967; Vol. 285, c. 781.]I think that puts it very well.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Earlier, the right hon. Gentleman said that we were wrong to have announced the date for leaving Singapore because of the situation in Hong Kong. Is he seriously suggesting that the only reason the Chinese do not take over Hong Kong, which they could easily do at any moment, is that we have a base at Singapore? Does he not realise there are economic considerations?
§ Mr. Powell
That is not at all what I think. What I am saying it this, that in a situation in which both the Government of China and the Government of this country are handling a difficult and potentially explosive situation, which could get out of the control of either, the disturbing factor of this decision and announcement about our long-term presence deliberately made now can do nothing but harm, and cannot but increase the difficulties which already exist.
1020 But the effect in the Far East is not the only havoc which the Government have wrought by their long-range budgetary manoeuvres. They have been stampeded by the necessity of working backwards from these figures into a series of severe cuts in all the forces without any other explanation and justification. These cuts amount in all to 20 per cent. over eight years. After the so-called review of 1965–66 the right hon. Gentleman boasted in the House thatThe major decisions are now taken …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1797.]Well, if these decisions in this White Paper are not major decisions about the future of our forces, then I do not know what are. As the hon. Gentleman the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) warned the House in his resignation speech, the White Paper of 1966 did notspecify the full range of the cuts either in the Navy or in the other Services."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd February, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 260.]Only in the last few minutes of the defence debate, on 8th March, 1966, under pressure from my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling), did the Secretary of State refer, casually, to further reductions in equipment and manpower, which would save an additional £100 million. Now, 18 months later, these far-reaching cuts are announced. Can anyone be expected to believe the right hon. Gentleman when he now says that "this Statement marks the end of that process"? It is ironic to read on the first page of this Defence White Paper that the Statement is intended "to provide a period of stability". The estimate that the forces and the country are likely to make of that "period of stability", looking at this Government's record, will be a very short one indeed.
Perhaps I may at this point refer to the redundancy and compensation terms announced in the White Paper, of which the right hon. Gentleman has given further details both in answer to Questions and also in his speech today. These, I am sure the whole House would agree, require further and detailed study. On the face of it, it appears that they are less satisfactory upon the whole than the terms which were offered in 1967–68. But that is obviously a matter to which, in 1021 the interests of those concerned, this House may well wish to recur.
Now I come to the individual Services, and first to the Royal Navy.
At the present time, as the 1966 White Paper, in its second part, said, our carrier force isthe most important element of the Fleet for offensive action against an enemy at sea or ashore.Not the least charge which we on this side of the House brought against the Government was that their decision not to proceed with the new carrier envisaged the end of one Naval philosophy and strategy without any idea of what would replace it. The comparison of the naval section of this White Paper with that of 18 months ago shows that the Government are still without a settled policy or philosophy for the Royal Navy.
Two weapons on which great stress was laid 18 months ago have been sunk virtually without trace. Thenew class of guided missile ships"—those were the 1966 words—the T82—is to have one sole exemplar, a one-off. That idea has fizzled out. Thesurface to surface guided weapon for use against missile firing shipsis not even mentioned. Instead we have a new class of cruisers and a new class of destroyers, and a perfect mania of reliance for all conceivable purposes upon the helicopter.
Then there is that astonishing sentence thatthe main striking power of the Navy … will be provided by the growing force of Fleet submarines".Our submarines, which only 18 months ago were aformidable part of our anti-submarine defencesare thus now elevated into "the main striking power" of the Royal Navy. It is a statement which envisages, if it envisages anything at all, a type and conditions of warfare remote from any which the Government have hitherto adumbrated. The conclusion which forces itself on anyone who compares the two White Papers is that in another 18 months we shall have another statement as different again from this as this was from the last.
1022 Meanwhile, however, amid all these uncertainties, the Government, astonishingly enough, know exactly what the size of the Royal Navy will be eight years hence. It will be 18 per cent. smaller than its present size. It will have exactly 18 per cent. fewer men than today. So they know neither what ships nor how many the Navy will have in the mid-1970s but they know exactly how many men. How? Why? Because it is the figure which fits their budgetary calculations.
Then let us look at the Royal Air Force. That section of the White Paper is strewn with the wreckage of the collapse of the Government gamble on the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. They are, they say, "examining all aspects of the situation". They have not decided what will be the operational gap, what rôles will have to be filled, what they will be filled with. At this end of the spectrum of the Royal Air Force's capability all is complete uncertainty. We still do not even know the price at which we shall get the F111K.
But the Government know that in eight years' time the Royal Air Force will be 22 per cent. smaller than it is today. They know that for certain. How? They give no reasons, no explanation and no argument, but just the bleak nine words:… the size of the front line will be reduced".Why? How? And why by 22 per cent. precisely, which is a much larger reduction than in the other two Services? The answer, again, is that the figure fits their predetermined budgetary calculation.
In a recent debate, the right hon. Gentleman drew attention to a definition of the word "core". He said:… a core is a central part normally to be cut out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 1062.]Therefore, it may reasonably be assumed that these 27,000 men whom the Royal Air Force is to lose are the core of the Government's long-term programme for the air force. At any rate, they will be cut out.
I pass over the astonishing announcement of a cut of one-eight in research and development—and that from a Government forged in the white heat of the technological revolution. I pass over the 1023 Gurkha Brigade, which is given the cold comfort of being told that… by the 1970s … there will still be some Gurkhas in Malaysia.I come to the British Army. The first phase of reduction in terms of teeth units is set out in paragraph 7 on page 8. It is for a reduction from 60 to 52 battalions in three or four years. But, unless the reduction of the teeth units has been concentrated into the first phase, the second phase must also involve a similar reduction, which would bring the Army to the region of 44 battalions, and the equivalent in the other teeth arms. The sole explanation of this reduction in the fighting units of the British Army by 25 per cent. over the next eight years, is contained in the words,… as a result of the cuts in commitments outside Europe.I have already looked at the mass of ambiguities and contradictions which that expression "cuts in commitments" covers. But the basic error into which the Government have stumbled is that of supposing that an army is the sum total of the troops stationed in various theatres at a particular time and automatically falls to be reduced when a station is no longer occupied.
A great part of the Government's own case is that the forces will, if needed, be able to be flown out from this country. In another place, the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, placed great emphasis on this. He said:I do not think that it is sufficiently recognised even now that the advent of the very long-range transport aircraft has put an entirely new complexion on the question of whether it makes better sense to keep troops on the ground far from home, or whether it is not preferable … to keep them, or some of them, at a high state of alert in their own country." …[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 25th July, 1967; Vol. 285, c. 707.]The Prime Minister recently stressed'… our ability to get to places where we were needed rather than reliance on …. bases."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1967; Vol. 750, c. 2473.]The White Paper itself says over and over again on page 4:… it will be more economical to rely mainly on sending forces from Britain in a crisis.There is no reason and no argumentation in this for reduction or for any particular reduction.
1024 I will not deny the House the enjoyment of what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State said on television, when he was asked about the Far East:Are we actually going to station troops there from the mid-1970s onwards?
§ Mr. Powell
No, it was not in 1954 but on 18th July of this year. The right hon. Gentleman's reply was:We shall not station troops there. We shall probably have our amphibious force—that is, Commando carriers and assault ships with Marine Commandos aboard—sailing round in the area.The interrogator said:So the main plan is to use this strategic reserve in Britain?The hon. Gentleman replied:In so far as we require to deploy forces in the Far East other than those sailing round, they will be flown out or sailed out from England according to circumstances to meet with every requirement that arises.That will be very difficult if the forces no longer exist or do not exist in sufficient strength.
But there is a more profound misconception still. I pointed out in a previous debate this year that, before the war, the British troops stationed in India were a vital part of the British Army itself—indeed, it would be no exaggeration to say that they were basic to it. It would be grotesque to suppose that, had the transfer of power in India taken place ten years earlier, therefore the British Army should or could simply have been cut by the number of troops that were in India. An army is not a kind of addition sum arrived at by totting up the garrisons here and there at a given moment. It is a living organism which must have the size, flexibility, and power of growth to respond to the wide range of unforeseeable demands. Above all, a professional army like ours is the indispensable basis and cadre of the nation's military effort in any future emergency.
Such matters are not in the Government's mind. All that they can envisage is cuts and further cuts without definition or justification of the size and structure of the Army to be aimed at.
There is already widespread dismay in the British Army at the first revealed phase of the 25 per cent. reduction in the 1025 fighting units of the Army. My own regiment happens not to be one of those which are to disappear in this phase. However, it is right that a voice should be raised in this House, in the name of the House as a whole, of praise and gratitude to the history, the traditions and the service of the units which in this first phase are already to disappear in one sense or another.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
It has happened before under the right hon. Gentleman's own administration.
§ Mr. Powell
However, I am speaking not only for those units, and not only for the Army, when I say to the Government, to the House and to the country that the hour will come in circumstances which no man can foresee today, just as the circumstances in the past in which this country has had to fight for its life were never foreseen—indeed, were treated with scorn, as absurd and as situations which could never arise—when this nation will need to increase her Army urgently in time of dire emergency or peril. When that time comes, this country will mourn the lost battalions. It will curse a Government which, not content with halving our citizen reserve, now intend to cut the fighting units of our Regular Army by a quarter.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Does not the right hon. Gentleman recall that, in 1957, under the supervision of his right hon. Friend the. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who was Minister of Defence, the whole organisation of our Forces was based on a White Paper which no longer provided reliance on conventional weapons and forces but on the nuclear weapon? Moreover, may I remind him that there was an occasion under a previous Tory Administration when a vast number of regiments were disbanded, and yet we have been quite capable since then of meeting our obligations.
§ Mr. Powell
If the White Paper made the slightest attempt to argue why the size of the Army, shorn of 18 per cent. of its manpower, and 25 per cent. of its teeth units, was adequate, and how it could be adequate, and what its organisation would be, and what the thinking and philosophy behind that Army would be, I would have more sympathy with the right hon. Gentleman.
1026 There is one part of our defence preparations where there are to be no cuts. The hon. Member for South Ayreshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) is on to that. It is the nuclear potential, and no wonder. With each successive reduction in our forces the Government become inexorably more and more dependent on, the prisoners of, the nuclear weapon, and the more closely the right hon. Gentleman approaches the situation which was so powerfully described by the present Foreign Secretary ten years ago, the situation whereevery single major move becomes a decision to surrender, or suicide …."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th February, 1957; Vol. 564, c. 1293.]That is not what the party opposite has urged over the years. That is not the proposition on which hon. Gentlemen opposite were elected. That is not the policy which enjoys the support of dozens of their own Members on those benches. Their 1964 election address said:Our stress will be on the strengthening of our conventional regular forces.This is how they have carried out the pledge.
In 1962, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister spoke similarly about the "strengthening of our conventional forces"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1962; Vol. 655, c. 227.] When, in 1964, he went to Washington we were told thathe spoke out for a larger Navy and the strengthening of the conventional forces." "Summarising what he had said in Washington, Mr. Wilson outlined the policy of a future Labour Government. On ceasing the vast expense of maintaining the nuclear pretence, it would use some of the savings in strengthening Britain's conventional forces by way of more troops, better equipped, and improved mobility.Finally, on the eve of the election—at Plymouth as it happened—the Prime Minister said:We believe that in the present condition of the world"—perhaps he will say that it has become more peaceful and safe since then—we need a stronger and more effective Navy. … I wish the world were such that I did not have to say this, but I believe that we shall need an expanded naval shipbuilding programme and a greater Navy.In a recent debate on the fiasco of the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft, I had to tell the Secretary of State for Defence that he had lost all credit by his 1027 gamble with the future of the Royal Air Force. I cannot say the same about the Prime Minister. His credit reached absolute zero some time ago. But it would be a light matter if the Government's somersaults, their contradictions, their breaches of what they have stood for, their chopping and changing, their enslavement of defence policy to a distant imaginary figure, were damaging only to them.
It is because these courses are profoundly perilous for the safety and the future of the nation that we censure them today.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)
There are many who should know better who think that this White Paper will mean drastic cuts in arms expenditure, and will make great savings. Unfortunately, this is not so. It is a great delusion to think so, as I intend to show.
If the four major criticisms mentioned in the second Amendment are valid, as I propose to show they are, how can anyone say that the White Paper is a great step forward? The Amendment says that if the Government are to carry out their promises they must drastically, and without delay, cut the £2,200 million a year, the expenditure "which the White Paper proposes to continue." I repeat that statement. The White Paper proposes to continue the spending of £2,200 million a year. The evidence is on page 11.
The White Paper admits that at current prices the Government intend to spend in 1970 exactly as much as they are spending today, the fantastic sum of £2,200 million, and by the mid-seventies, at current prices, to spend £2,100 million. To quote lower figures is an accountancy trick. It is using out-of-date figures. It is like an unemployed man who goes home to his wife and says, "We will have to cut down on something to safeguard more important things, like the children's welfare, clothes, and food". So they decide that they will cut down on the expenses of their small motor car.
The husband says to his wife, "Three years hence we will cut our motoring expenses to £3 a week ".The wife says," But, Denis "—his name may be Denis—" £3 is exactly what we are spending 1028 today".The husband replies, "Ah, but in three years' time the cost of motoring will have gone up". We can imagine the wife's reaction. To use a Lancashire expression, she would give him the rounds of the kitchen.
That is what we are going to do. We are to spend as much money three years' hence as we are spending now, but we are to get less value for it.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
As the Government have established the precedent of relating everything to the 1964 level, ought not they in honesty to relate social benefits and everything else to that level, so that people know where they are?
§ Mr. Allaun
There is a good deal of sense in that interjection. I wish that my right hon. Friend could deny this, but we are to go on spending as much money on arms as we are spending today. It is not a drastic cut. It is not what the public want, as the public opinion polls show. They want much more drastic cuts. It is not what many hon. Members on these benches are seeking.
The Minister says in his conclusions, on page 12:This statement marks the end of that process"—the process of reviewing commitments and expenditure. If he had said that this was the beginning of the process his White Paper would have been greeted with enthusiasm, but unless I misunderstood him, today he said that this process would not be repeated for many years. That makes it worse.
Let us consider the action of the West German Government. I have no particular love for them, but they are cutting their military expenditure by £200 million a year without delay—next year—in cash terms. When West Germany gets into economic difficulties it does not hesitate. Why should we?
The morning on which the White Paper was issued the newspaper headlines read:The £ Again Under PressureThere is no doubt that this is what is discouraging the Government from relaxing the deflationary measures which will keep 500,000 men on the dole and probably increase their number to 700,000 this winter. It is the Government's overseas military spending—this constant 1029 drain on the balance of payments—which causes them to maintain and not to relax the deflationary pressure. This is the cause of unemployment, which is the most serious evil in our life today.
Getting out of Singapore and Malaysia is scheduled for eight years hence. That is far too long. We all want to alleviate and prevent unemployment in Singapore, but that is no reason for keeping military bases there for another eight years. If we want to help the people of Malaysia and Singapore, let us provide them with alternative work. I am all in favour of that. Surely this is no excuse for having a military base there eight years hence. When this problem was discussed at the Labour Party conference last year the talk was not about eight years hence, but about two years hence. That was when the Government were asked to get our forces out of Singapore and Malaysia. These rank and file delegates have more sense than some of the generals and "top brass" who have been advising the Government.
There has been a remarkable silence about the other half of the problem. Most of the discussion today has been about the Far East, and most of the White Paper, too, is concerned with the Far East. What about the other half of our military overseas spending—West Germany? I know that on this question right hon. Gentlemen opposite will not agree with me. I am weeping no tears over that fact. We are spending in West Germany £195 million a year. This will remain relatively untouched. We shall cut it by £5½ million. That is about 2 per cent. Only one brigade is to be brought home.
Yet, again in the White Paper, the Minister repeats what he has said previously, that "a Soviet attack in Europe is unlikely in present circumstances". He knows, as we all do, that N.A.T.O. ends its 20 years of life in 1969. In view of his statement about present circumstances, with which most hon. Members will agree, why is he not making unilateral reductions, as the Germans are? Failing that, why, at least, is he not pressing vigorously for troop reductions by N.A.T.O. as a whole—there is no suggestion about that in the White Paper—which would lead to reciprocal reductions by the Warsaw Pact countries, as several of their spokesmen have officially indicated.
1030 Newspaper reports this morning have referred to a meeting which took place not far from where we are gathered. According to those reports the controversy concerned the question of which sphere of our social service expansion we were to halt. Many Labour Members will resist any watering down of our plans for the social services as long as this enormous expenditure on armaments takes place. We would say, "Not a penny off the social services or off industrial growth; not a penny off the help we give to hungry nations abroad, as long as we are wasting our manpower, money and materials in this way."
If we reduced our proportion of the gross national product devoted to arms to the same level as does the rest of Western Europe we would be sitting pretty. If we cut the proportion of our gross national product spent on arms from 6.5 per cent. to 4 per cent.—it does not sound a lot—we should have an extra £700 million a year to play with. What could we not do with that? We could do all the things that we so much want to see—the superannuation scheme; the 500,000 houses a year; the raising of the school leaving age, and the health scheme improvements which are very much needed.
All these things could be done. We could start to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land—
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr (Rochester and Chatham)
My hon. Friend may agree that to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land we would have to lay plans for the absorption of the work force into other kinds of work. The Government should play the leading rôle in laying down alternative jobs for the men and women now employed in our defence industries.
§ Mr. Allaun
I entirely agree. That was done, and on a much bigger scale, in 1945, when a Labour Government, in about six months, turned over 9 million men and women from the Armed Forces and the war factories to peaceful work, without unemployment. It is possible to do what my hon. Friend says, and it would be done in a phased way, because it would be on a much smaller scale 1031 than in 1945. 1he public are ready for sweeping cuts in arms expenditure, so that other and better things can go ahead.
This morning many hon. Members attended a meeting in honour of Konni Zilliacus, who died a fortnight ago. Ever since he entered the House of Commons, in 1945, he proclaimed one essential point—that if any British Government attempted to carry out a foreign policy which involved colossal defence expenditure it would eventually and inevitably interfere with social progress at home. That is what "Zillie" would be saying if he were here today. He was right. Recent events have proved it to the hilt.
I cannot do no other than oppose the Conservative Amendment, which opposes any saving in this field. But if a second vote takes place to approve the White Paper, I could not conscientiously vote in favour of it and propose to abstain.
I intend to be much briefer than one or two other speakers this afternoon. I understand that the right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) is to wind up for the Opposition and I have told him that I propose to refer to his views, which are, presumably, the official views of the Opposition. Although he has not yet spoken in this debate, we may know what his line will be, because he stated it publicly on return from his recent visit to the United States. Many of us are lost in admiration for the suavity with which he makes dangerous, warlike policies look respectable.
The right hon. Gentleman admitted in a recent article that the British troops in the Far East are of only marginal strategic value to the Americans. Then why, we may ask, did Mr. McNamara, the U.S. Secretary of Defence, say not long ago:You British are doing a first-class job in the Far East and it is essential that you go right on doing it.The right hon. Member has given the game away. Unfortunately, I cannot send any urgent messages on the "hot" telephone line to check the references, but there is no mistake about this.
To quote his actual words, he said:Politically, the continuing presence is an essential to them (the American Government). If we were to withdraw, leaving them"—America—alone of the Western Powers in the east of Suez area, then they feel that politically their position would soon become intolerable. 1032 American opinion would not allow the American Government to continue alone the role of world policeman".Precisely. In other words, Washington, with the right hon. Member's approval, wants us to keep thousands of troops in Malaysia and other parts of the Far East, despite the ending of confrontation with Indonesia, and wants the Australians to keep a token force in Vietnam so that the war already waging there and the United States military preparations in five other Asian countries should look more like a crusade for freedom by an alliance and less like aggression by a single Power.
"World policeman", indeed. If China had 400,000 soldiers fighting in Mexico and approaching the United States frontier, the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party would not be describing China in such terms as a world policeman. The American purpose is to stop social change and national independence among the peoples of Asia and Latin America. When the Conservatives talk about the armed forces being gravely impaired in their capability to defend Britain, what they really mean is their capability to defend U.S. foreign policy.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Fraser (Stafford and Stone)
I will not follow the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) very far, except to say that his contribution to the debate is in many ways more important than that of the Secretary of State, since it is precisely this point of view which is influencing right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench. I agree with him, however, on this point—I regard the present Administration's economic policy as disastrous, and it is significant that the burden is thrown on the unemployed and the Armed Services, a process which we saw in the 1930s.
I will not dwell on the need for the exchange rate to take some of the burdens which fall in these areas, but it is becoming more true every day. I will not follow the White Paper in what is called a system of higher criticism, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) pointed out, shows up the extraordinary anomalies and contradictions in it. Only one fact emerges with absolute and total clarity and that is that, over the next decade, this Government are resolved to 1033 reduce defence expenditure from 61 per cent. to under 5 per cent. of the gross national product. Of that, there can be no doubt—
§ Mr. Fraser
I will come to the hon. Gentleman's point.
—and that it will leave the country, after the more or less total destruction of the Territorial Army, with inadequate reserves of trained manpower or cadres for expansion.
If one takes the point of view of the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), this is perfectly justifiable, but it has to be based on two things—no nuclear weapons and no obligations outside the United Nations. This is precisely what this Goverment still reject. As my right hon. Friend said in his admirable speech, they are relying even more today on the nuclear weapon than they ever proposed to do or than the late Conservative Government proposed. The power of one's nuclear arms must be relative to one's conventional ones and that is falling. Therefore, the Labour Government's increasing reliance on nuclear weapons inevitably follows.
My dear father-in-law and Lord Chalfont and others have got into a very interesting semantic discussion about the difference between commitments and obligations, but the obligations of this Government remain precisely as before: there has been absolutely no change. All they are doing is making it impossible for the obligations to be discharged.
One instance of the sort of obligation which we may suddenly have thrown upon us is the terrible moral dilemma which could have faced the House if Israel had been overrun and we had seen the genocide of a people. If the threat of the Arabs had been carried out and the people of Israel massacred and exterminated, many people in the House would have felt under an immense moral obligation to do something about it—and this applies to many on the Front Bench as well.
Therefore, to say, as Lord Chalfont does, that these obligations can fly away like the commitments is nonsense. Providing that the Government believe that they have these obligations, they must 1034 have the means to fulfil them. It is clear that they have now, by this White Paper, kept the obligations but are endeavouring to escape from the commitments.
That is precisely the sort of thing which is destroying the morale and will of the people of the country. It leads to endless posing, such as we have had from the Prime Minister. Again and again, we have heard the phrase, "This country cannot stand idly by". It could not "stand idly by "about the bombing in North Vietnam, or about Rhodesia, or about the Straits of Tiran. And what happened? Nothing. Perhaps the appropriate phrase for the Prime Minister the next time he looks for one would not be "standing idly by" but a phrase using some more prone position which he cannot idly abandon.
Frankly, the White Paper is disastrous. The promise is still there, but it will be totally impossible to fulfil it over the next decade. I do not want to go into details about the White Paper except for a point concerning the Royal Air Force which is being asked to carry out duties which were previously to be carried out by the Royal Navy. The R.A.F. is being asked to carry out duties which would have been carried out by aircraft from carriers.
Although the commitment has gone, the obligations in the Far East are just as great as ever they have been. The other evening the right hon. Gentleman discussed the merry theme of ships circling around the Far East, but being supported by aircraft. It is clear from the White Paper that there will not be sufficient aircraft to carry out those duties.
But the White Paper raises a much more serious question even than that of power. It raises a question on which the Labour Party have a special difficulty because, honourably or dishonourably—it is a matter of fact—they have had a pacifist element. It may be that there has been a jingoist element in the Conservative Party. But today a special danger faces democracy when it deals with defence. It was rightly said in the old days that democracy was always slow to be prepared and slow to take the necessary steps for defence. That is becoming an exceptionally dangerous 1035 characteristic, because the time between an operational aircraft requirement being decided and the aircraft coming into squadron service is seven or eight years.
We must decide priorities. We are in a world generally becoming more and more dangerous. A few weeks ago we were on the brink of war and could have been involved in war in the Middle East. To cut back on defence in such a massive way—the biggest cut in proportion which has been made since 1935—is dangerous.
I know that we politicians live in a rather strange world of what is called the permissive society and that we are subject to what is called consensus politics and politicians. But I warn right hon. Gentlemen opposite and on this side, too, that the consensus for which politicans often search leads to the lowest common denominator—a common denominator which is bad.
§ Mr. Mendelson rose—
§ Mr. Fraser
I will not give way, because I am about to conclude.
When people are unprepared on these matters, the first Gallup Poll is always in favour of a Munich. That is a point which we must face. The White Paper is ill-thought-out and contains areas of great danger for the country. In producing it, the Government have fallen below the level of events and deserve to be condemned.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Evan Luard (Oxford)
In opening an earlier White Paper the Secretary of State for Defence congratulated the Government on the fact that, by it, defence policy had been made the servant of foreign policy. I confess that I felt some doubt about the use of that phrase at that time, and I feel it still in relation to the present White Paper. It is surely always the case that both defence policy and foreign policy at any one time will be conditioned, above all, by the believed potential threats to international security which may arise in the course of the next few years. It is the assessment of this threat rather than any preconceived idea of foreign policy which will always be the fundamental factor in de- 1036 ciding which kind of defence policy will be pursued.
In assessing the present Defence White Paper, this is surely the kind of consideration which we must first have in mind. We must look at the world scene and consider which are the areas in which instability is most likely to arise in the next few years, which are the kinds of response that we could reasonably be expected to make, which kinds of action by our forces are most likely to reduce or increase stability. Finally, we have to relate these possible considerations to the resources which we can be expected to be able to provide.
If one surveys the world scene, one cannot doubt that the area of greatest stability is Europe. It is perhaps slightly paradoxical that during the last 20 years Europe has probably been more highly armed than at any other time. But it is equally undeniable that there has been no period of a similar length of years in the past 2,000 years of European history in which peace has existed on the same scale as in the past 22 years. There has not been a single war, or a single outbreak of international violence in Europe during that period. In considering our defence commitment it would, therefore, be logical to feel that this is perhaps where it is easiest for us to make reductions in our defence establishment.
I well understand the purely political considerations which have not made it possible for us to achieve any significant reduction in our defence commitment in Europe at the moment. Those are important considerations. Our application for membership of the Common Market, even more important the undesirability of allowing the West German Government to feel that they are being deserted by their allies and that they must find other means, perhaps less desirable to us, of providing for their defence, these are strong arguments against large changes now. I do not question the Government's judgment therefore in making no further reductions in our defence establishments in Europe at the present stage.
May I, however, address a warning to the Secretary of State for Defence in this connection. He spoke of his success—which I entirely applaud—in reducing expenditure in foreign exchange on defence during the three years that he has 1037 been in office. He quoted substantial figures already saved, and gave the savings over the next few years as a result of the White Paper policy. But much of this was based on agreements which have been arrived at this year with great difficulty for offsetting our foreign exchange costs in Germany.
It would be an optimistic person—I do not believe that my right hon. Friend would be so optimistic—who would believe that we shall be as successful in acquiring such considerable offset arrangements in any future year. Many special factors arose this year. It would be wise to remember that if we are to achieve the sort of savings in foreign exchange expenditure outlined by my right hon. Friend, more extensive reductions in our force levels in Germany may be necessary later.
Most people would agree that the main areas of the world in which threats to security and stability can be expected in the coming years are not in Europe but mainly in the developing Continents—in Latin-America, where even today two or three small guerilla actions are taking place; in Africa, where wars of one sort or another are going on in Nigeria, the Sudan and the Congo, and where more trouble is likely in Southern Africa; in the Middle East, which is only now recovering from a sudden and violent outbreak of war; perhaps, above all, in South-East Asia, where, in the past 20 years, there has been a protracted struggle between the French and nationalist forces in Indo-China, between 1946 and 1954; the emergency in Malaysia; the renewed fighting in Vietnam and civil conflict in the Philippines and Thailand. This certainly is one of the most unstable areas of the world.
I will not comment on Latin-America and Africa, because we have no land forces in either. Nor will I say much about the Middle East, because I regard the policy outlined in the White Paper for that area as the right one; here we are already making a substantial reduction in our forces by our withdrawal from Aden, leaving a very limited level of forces in the area for the indefinite future, only the sort of level that may be required in certain emergency situations—and even this will probably not be a long-term commitment.
1038 The area with which the White Paper is primarily concerned is South-East Asia, and the Far East. In considering the likely threats to stability in this area one must consider, first, the intentions and motives of China, by far the most powerful and important nation in the area. A great deal is said, often in loose terms, about the "containment" of China and the possible "expansionist" intentions of that country. I believe both terms need careful definition.
If we are referring to possible expansion by China, to what sort of expansion are we referring? If what is meant is expansion by direct military attack on China's neighbours, I would consider this highly improbable. China has deliberately and voluntarily entered into frontier agreements with virtually all its neighbours, except with India, where it has established what I believe to be the frontiers it wants, and with the Soviet Union. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Tibet?"] Tibet has always been regarded as a part of China: that has been the view of successive British and foreign Governments. This, therefore, is not the sort of action one expects from a country which is planning direct aggression.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that the point is not so much whether we and any other advanced Western nation considers that China is unlikely to be militarily aggressive to its neighbours, but that China's neighbours fear the future? Would not he agree that the fear of physical violence is much nearer the surface in these oriental countries than it is in any part of the Western civilisation?
§ Mr. Luard
I accept that the legitimate apprehensions of the countries in the area, must obviously be borne in mind when formulating our defence policy. However, it would not be reasonable to expect us to maintain a level of forces not related to a threat which we consider to be probable, but related to a threat which is thought probable by other nations.
Let us go on to consider possible expansion by means of the deliberate encouragement or spreading of violence in civil conflicts. If one means by this that China can be expected to exploit every opportunity that arises in civil conflicts 1039 in the area, I agree one must expect that. But if one is talking about the deliberate starting by China of these activities, then this is more difficult to judge. If one examines Chinese foreign policy in the last 15 years—since the Communist Government came to power—one must admit that China has been remarkably cautious in its policy in the area, even in countries where civil disturbances have taken place.
For example, in Laos, an area of vital strategic importance to China, a border territory, China has behaved with considerable moderation and restraint. One could say the same about Vietnam, another country of vital strategic importance to China. From the point of view of the physical supply of arms, Russia, a country far more distant, has been more active than China. I do not deny the importance of the moral encouragement and verbal incitement to violence which China has given, but that is not the same as physical participation or assistance to violence.
If, by "expansion", one means simply an expansion of Chinese influence in the area, this is certainly something which one can anticipate, although it is something which one must agree cannot legitimately be denied to China. There will certainly be an expansion of Chinese influence in the area, which is right on its doorstep. What we must ensure is that these activities must not inhibit the freedom and independence of these neighbour countries or seriously endanger the legitimate interests of other countries in the region.
If we accept—and most people do—that the main threat to the stability of the area is that of civil disorder and possible small-scale, guerrilla conflicts, we must adjust both defence policy and the sort of assistance we think it right to provide for the countries of the region. The best asistance we can give against disorders or threats of this sort is not necessarily military. It is becoming increasingly recognised nowadays that perhaps the most effective deterrence to guerilla activity in areas like, say, Viet-name, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and this whole part of the world is other nonmilitary assistance.
Economic assistance may be of vital importance in preventing the conditions 1040 in which conflicts of this sort emerge. Assistance in establishing efficient and, above all, honest political administrations, especially in remote areas, is of crucial importance in preventing disturbances of this kind reaching a large scale and becoming seriously dangerous. Assistance for police forces can be as important, from the purely military point of view, as military assistance proper, became.
Often, especially in the early stages of such conflicts, it is the police forces that bear the greatest responsibility in containing the trouble. Without efficient police forces, as British advisers have often said to the Americans in Vietnam, all the military assistance in the world may not be of great value.
If we accept that the threats in this area are of the kind I have described, I believe that the policy in the White Paper is basically correct. Here, I must dissent from some of my hon. Friends, who are critical of the policy, first, because they think that we should be leaving the area very much more quickly than is at present intended. If one believes that we have any responsibility at all for the countries in the area—and I do not see how that can be denied, as we are involved in direct treaty obligations to at least two of the territories—one must be prepared to give those countries reasonable time to make alternative arrangements before we leave the area altogether.
Secondly, it is frequently said that what we have to do in this situation—and my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) frequently says this—is simply to cut our commitments. I do not think it is a reasonable proposition, when one has entered into formal obligations, just to cut commitments according to the whim of the moment. A commitment is a commitment. One can encourage those countries to make alternative arrangements that will enable them to provide as effectively, if not more effectively, for their own defence. But one cannot unilaterally withdraw from such obligations and provide nothing in return.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I am sure that my hon. Friend does not mean to suggest that I want suddenly and unilaterally to dishonour treaties, but he will agree that some ancient treaties—some of them were made in the 18th century—cannot be 1041 binding on us for ever. We are surely entitled to ask our treaty partners to release us from treaty obligations at some time.
§ Mr. Luard
I accept that. But we are not here talking of 18th century treaties, but of treaties about 10 years old. It is not only a question of treaty commitments, but agreements with former members of the Commonwealth which we ourselves have recently brought to independence. We have some responsibility for the security and stability of the area as a whole—a responsibility that we retain for the moment, though we cannot retain it indefinitely and from which we should try eventually to withdraw.
Nonetheless, many of us for a long time have thought that, while we may have such commitments, we are not necessarily bound to meet them in the same way as we have done in the past. What is important to these countries is not that we should have available large numbers of troops on the spot but that we should be in a position to provide assistance at short notice in a crisis situation. This is particularly so if we accept my earlier premise that the kind of dangers likely to arise are not of overt large-scale aggression of frontiers of the sort that at one time was thought of in Europe, but of fairly limited guerilla activities.
I do not believe that deterrence in the shape of large forces on the spot is of great importance. It could be argued, indeed, that large forces of a foreign country, especially of what might be termed an imperialist country, on the ground, far from being a deterrent against guerrilla activity are a provocation—
§ Mrs. Anne Kerr
Is my hon. Friend suggesting that if a brush fire broke out in, say, Thailand, where there is no democracy at all, we would be willing to send British troops to put it out? I cannot believe it to be possible.
§ Mr. Luard
If such a situation arose, we would have to consider our position. As my hon. Friend knows, we have refused to become involved in any way in the war in Vietnam, and we might make the same decision over Thailand. But we have an interest in trying to prevent such a thing happening in Thailand and in other countries in the region, so that anything we can do, particularly by means of political and economic assist- 1042 ance, that may make such a happening much less likely is not only in their interests but in ours.
What is most important for those countries is to know that they have at least an interim period during which we would be able to bring them assistance of some kind against aggression in a fairly short space of time. I approve of the White Paper because it is designed to bring that about. It would be a rational policy for any outside Power to pursue that wishes to give assistance in an area like this but, above all, it is a rational policy for a country like Britain which is suffering from very serious defence problems.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to say that the Government are simply cutting their coat according to their cloth; thinking of a figure and then evolving their defence policy accordingly. The fact is that any Government must to a very considerable extent take account of their resources, and of the economic situation generally, in devising a defence policy as a whole.
For any Government that has any serious balance of payments problem, the balance of payments situation must always be one factor to be taken very seriously into account in evolving defence strategy. That is why I think the defence White Paper, which will make it possible for us to provide effective assistance in such a situation without the heavy drain on our balance of payments resulting from having large numbers of ground troops on the spot, is our only rational course. My only regret is that the Government did not move towards this policy a year or two earlier than they have done.
The Defence White Paper has one or two other implications. There is even further need for strengthening our air transport facilities. In particular, the Government should consider the possibility of the purchase of the C5 United States air transport, in addition to those transports that we are already acquiring. The C5 is by far the most effective air transport yet being built. It will, of course, be expensive—
§ Mr. Healey
I must tell my hon. Friend that the C5 does not yet exist, and it will not exist for several years, nor shall we 1043 require it until the Britannias phase out in mid-'75. Of course, we are considering whether when the Britannias do phase out, we should replace them with C5s.
§ Mr. Luard
I am very happy to hear that, because it does meet the very point I was making.
Another important implication of the policy outlined in the White Paper is that if over a period we are to remove our forces from this region it is not unreasonable for us to expect the countries there to take more active steps to combine to improve their own defence facilities. I accept the Government's past argument that it is not for them to bully those countries into any particular defence organisation. It is not necessary, perhaps, to have any overt defence organisation, but some kind of regional organisation, perhaps, mainly for the purpose of greater economic co-operation or more political consultation, is important.
That policy has two main purposes. First, it improves the self-confidence of the countries in the region to feel that they can rely on each other for support, in addition to any external support for which they may still hope. Second, it provides a slightly greater amount of deterrent power to any kind of external threat that might still exist. I do not think that this is a major threat, but it may still be some kind of threat, and there might be some kind of deterrent even against guerilla activity.
Already a considerable number of small-scale organisations are overlapping in this part of the world. It should not be too difficult to find some kind of unifying factor among them. There could be a grouping of Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore. One might consider some kind of realigned support for co-operation between Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and probably India and Pakistan. I do not think these countries would wish us, or that it would be desirable for them, to enter into a formal defence organisation, but, if they were to consult regularly on defence matters it would improve and strengthen the security of the region and make it easier for us to disengage from that part of the world without any loss of honour or breach of undertakings to countries of the region.
§ 6.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
The hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Luard) referred to defence policy as an extension of foreign policy. Accepting that premise for the moment, I entirely disagree with him that this country cannot now get rid of much of its foreign obligations. This would be the first requirement for a country in "the twilight of empire" which basically has to reassess her rôle in the world.
From this bench we have been pressing for a long time that the country's first requirement is to get rid of the obligations and then to cut down on the forces. What the Government are in the process of doing is to cut down the commitment or the ability to carry out the obligation while still retaining the obligation. This is a highly dangerous policy.
§ Mr. Luard
I did not say that we should never make any alteration in commitments, but that it should only be over a period, and provided that we obtained assurances that those to whom we are committed could obtain facilities by other means. I do not agree that one can take or get rid of an obligation at a moment's notice.
§ Mr. Hooson
I accept that an obligation is an obligation, but it does not continue for ever. The Government and their predecessor have taken very few steps indeed to rid this country of its foreign obligations. We are, therefore, in a very dangerous exposed state. This is about the fifth defence debate in which I have spoken in this vein. The Minister of Defence knows that I basically disagree with him on many issues. However, I greatly respect his technical and general ability. Few Defence Ministers have had such a grasp of their subject as he has. Nevertheless, I think that we are in a very dangerous state.
We are proposing that we should retain our obligations, but, nevertheless, rid ourselves of the capacity for carrying them out. What will happen, for example, in the Far East, is that we shall have an important obligation to Malaysia—but greatly reduce our capacity to carry it out. What happens if there is pressure in that area? We shall have acclimatised people at home to the idea that we are getting rid of our obligations in the East. Whether we like it or not, that is what 1045 people think the Government is doing. Then, if there is pressure in that area, and we increase our defence forces there, there will be increased hostility at home. We could get trapped into a war in an area in which people at home have very little interest indeed.
Once we have made up our minds that we have to cut down our forces and that we are no longer for any length of time in a position to carry out foreign obligations, the sooner the process is completed the better. It is very dangerous to persist in the obligation and yet not to have the forces to carry it out. That is why there is an element of unreality about this debate between the two Front Benches. I do not believe that there is any difference of philosophy between them. I have always regarded the Secretary of State for Defence as holding the view, often eloquently expressed in this House, that Britain has still a world rôle to play. I do not think that he resiles from that view now. I understand that the opposition Front Bench—certainly the majority on the Front Bench—also hold that view.
The views of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) are a mystery to the House as much as they are to him on this subject. If we accept that the view of the Secretary of State on Britain's rôle in the world has not changed, what has forced this change in Government defence policy is events. It would have been exactly the same if there had been a Conservative Government. The Minister has been chided for cutting his coat according to his cloth, but inevitably that is what is forcing him to change his policy. I believe that whatever Government were in power they would now have to be withdrawing or planning withdrawal from these distant bases.
What is the future rôle of Britain in the world? I have taken the view for many years that we have two possible rôles in the future. The first and preferable one is as an integral part of Europe. The defence of Europe is the defence of Britain. We must aim to play a full part in Europe in the future. If events prevent us from doing this in the forseeable future—and here I take a pessimistic view of our getting into the Common Market—I do not see the chances of developing a new European defence 1046 community as high. Either we go in to Europe fully and take a full part or we may be driven into a Japanese-like rôle in the Atlantic area. Then we should become an insular Power in a true sense and have to trade where we can. This, whether we like it or not, might drive us eventually into a policy of military neutrality.
These are among the pressures affecting us in the assessment of our rôle in the world. I have always worked for and believed in a united Europe and that we should play a complete part in it. But we may have to consider seriously the alternative road, which may be forced upon us by events.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Is the hon. and learned Member speaking in terms of defence when he speaks about association with Europe? Is that what he means?
§ Mr. Shinwell
If that is so, will he notice that in the White Paper my right hon. Friend regards any aggression in Europe as most unlikely. What is the point about defence?
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall come to that point in a moment.
I am developing the idea that defence policy must be an extension of foreign policy and that policy depends upon one's view of the rôle of one's country in the world of the future. The danger about the Government's policy is that they cannot make up their minds on what the rôle of Britain is. The Defence Minister takes the view that Britain has a world rôle to play, but events are forcing him again and again to curtail his forces so that he is less able to fulfil this world rôle.
One great danger of a policy of protracted withdrawal, with a time-table and so on, is that we have a serious burden on our balance of payments which prevents us from being regarded as a truly effective candidate for European status. The very fact that we have these obligations makes it more, not less, difficult to get into Europe. Another reason why the rôle should not be protracted is that it always invites the cry of "neo-colonialism" in these unsettled areas when that charge is 1047 unjustified. We have all the odium although we have no bad intent. This is a situation of great difficulty.
I have always advocated in these debates that the first step we should take is to review all our obligations and to cut out all we possibly can. Once that is done, foreign policy falls into perspective and we can decide what kind of forces we need to fulfil our more limited rôle in the world.
I turn to the Defence White Paper and the part which deals with the European aspect. I have little to quarrel about with the White Paper in respect of what it says about Europe. The point was made by the hon. Member for Oxford that Europe has probably been the most secure part of the world over the past 22 years and yet has never been so heavily armed. This is a valid point. We have reached a basis in Europe between, on the one hand, the Russians and, on the other, the Americans and ourselves where there has been mutual respect for each other's forces, and this has created a military stability which has in time led to more political stability.
But should we continue with Europe in this frozen state? The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) is right in suggesting that there is greater scope for arms reduction in Europe than anywhere else. But how is it to be achieved without in the process creating a state of insecurity? It is difficult to evolve from a state of established security without in the process of the movement creating some insecurity.
I think that a new form of security is best achieved by direct negotiations between the Warsaw Pact and N.A.T.O. This is a course of action which I advocated at a conference of N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians. The conference refused to accept this form of words because the Americans and the West Germans would not accept that there should be negotiations between the two pacts because it would mean indirectly recognising East Germany—which seemed a poor reason to me. Nevertheless, the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians on an amended formula took the initiative and wrote letters to the Speakers of each of the representative Houses in the Eastern European countries suggesting that there should be an informal meeting 1048 of Parliamentarians from N.A.T.O. countries and Eastern European countries to see whether there did not exist a climate of opinion which would permit more formal talks later with a view to achieving a détente in Europe. I think that this is the right approach. But I regret to say that there was a favourable response from only two of the countries written to and so the idea has fallen through temporarily. However, this is the kind of contact that is necessary to create a climate for change, because there is greater scope for reduction of armed forces in Europe than anywhere else.
With regard to our overseas obligations, as I have said, there are great disadvantages in protracting our world rôle well into the 1970s. At the moment we still have long-term obligations in the Persian Gulf. Why are we planning to stay there almost indefinitely? I do not believe that in this age we derive economic and political advantages from a military presence. It would be far better for us to get out and let the natural political forces that would operate balance themselves out. Our very presence there prevents forces and countervailing forces from coming into operation.
I illustrate that by reference to the Far East. I was impressed by the spirit of the people when I visited Singapore. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Singapore is or was a viable independent unit. The main reason why it came into existence was because of our presence there. We make a great deal of difference to the economy while we are there. The astute leaders of Singapore would not have thought it wise to come out of the Malaysia Federation had it not been for the large British presence in Singapore. But independence having happened, it now makes it more difficult for us to withdraw.
Why do we need a new staging post in the Indian Ocean? Is it suggested that in the 1970s we shall need a new one there? How shall we carry out our obligations in the Far East after 1975? What is the purpose of having forces in, say, Australia in the late 1970s? It might provide moral support for the Australians—I am all for giving all the economic support necessary to friendly countries—but it is misleading to the Australians, the New Zealanders and our other friends 1049 in the Far East to think that in the 1970s we shall be in a position to give substantial military help if they are in difficulties. They must form their own defence organisations, and, indeed, they have done so through the A.N.Z.U.S. Pact.
We have yet as a country to come face to face with the reality of our present situation. We cannot afford a defence policy which takes such a proportion of our gross national product—
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
The hon. and learned Gentleman referred earlier to militant neutrality and the neutrality of Japan. Is not Japan doing well out of it and capturing the markets of the world?
§ Mr. Hooson
Japan certainly has alliances with many countries and trades a great deal with Red China. I am not suggesting that we should get rid of N.A.T.O. My argument is that this is a rôle to which Britain may be driven if she is not allowed by France into Europe.
One of the glaring omissions from the White Paper is the nuclear arm of Britain. What has happened to the Labour Party's policy to get rid of nuclear arms? This is an area where there is great scope for economy. I think that the argument is right that the more one reduces one's conventional forces the more one is necessarily driven to rely on nuclear power as an element in defence. The Conservative Party attack is right on this point.
The Labour Party has an unenviable record here. The Labour Party conference came out substantially in favour of getting rid of the nuclear deterrent, and that was one of the Prime Minister's main points in his election programme. Yet the Labour Government are developing Britain's nuclear power today, following the Conservative programme save that they have got rid of one submarine. Why are the Labour Government following this policy? What is it that has changed in the meantime? We know that the Prime Minister is retaining the nuclear arms with all the determination at its disposal, but he has not yet told us why. What is the difference between the situa- 1050 tion of Britain in the world today and the situation in 1964 when the Prime Minister came to power?
The truth is that by now no one takes very seriously what the Prime Minister says about defence. Plymouth has a very heady atmosphere. I was stationed there for a time during the war. It must be a very difficult place on election night or the eve of the poll. However, what the Prime Minister said about the development of the Navy when he was in Plymouth shows his complete lack of reliability on such occasions. It is time that the Government "came clean" on defence. What is their view—collectively—of the future rôle of Britain in the world? Do they think that we have the economic and military resources to carry out a world rôle? If we have not, the sooner we get rid of it the better.
There is much lacking in this White Paper, though it is nearer Liberal policy at last than any Defence White Paper that I have yet seen; I would certainly vote for it in preference to the Conservative Amendment. We are getting the worst of all worlds, there I agree with some of the critics on the Conservative benches. The policy of the Conservative Party is to have Britain fulfilling a world rôle and to provide Britain with the means of doing so. But the Conservatives are dishonest in that they never tell the electors that it would cost a great deal—a very great deal—more in taxation. I do not believe that our people are now prepared to spend the money to fulfil military obligations in remote parts of the world.
What I am most concerned with at the moment is the defence of Britain. I even think that if there were now a conventional attack on Britain—it is unlikely—it might succeed. I opposed the dismemberment of the Territorial Army. I was chided by the Government because I had been pressing for cuts in defence, and yet I objected to the break-up of the Territorial Army. I will say why. I believed that if we were to get into difficulty, if we were to move into a period of insecurity in Europe, it might be necessary for us to have forces on which we could rely in each part of this country for conventional defence. Therefore, I thought it was a great mistake to break up the Territorial Army.
My view of the future rôle of Britain as a European Power is that we need a 1051 citizen Army to sustain the regulars and that we should not rely entirely on a regular Army for home defence.
§ The Minister of Defence for Administration (Mr. G. W. Reynolds)
The hon. and learned Member says that he would like to have a civilian army. Is he not aware how much it would cost to equip and train a Territorial Army of the size that he is talking about up to the standard that he wants?
§ Mr. Hooson
It would cost far less than the cost of retaining the nuclear deterrent, and it would be a far better investment for this country.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Defence for the Royal Air Force (Mr. Merlyn Rees)
That is not true on the hon. and learned Gentleman's own figures.
§ Mr. Hooson
If we could cut out our obligations in different parts of the world and cut down on the necessity for a large regular force, we could spend more money on a Territorial Army. This would be the best investment that Britain could make in its own defence interests.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
Is the hon. and learned Gentleman aware that Israel produced rather an effective Army at about one-sixteenth of the cost of ours?
§ Mr. Hooson
I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman for that intervention. The Swiss have an effective Army, although it has not been called into action. So have the Swedes. The Israeli example shows what can be done.
I am very concerned with an attitude of mind in this country which the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) pointed out in a newspaper article—we can always in theory sort out what should happen in other parts of the world—as in the Middle East but show little interest in the defence of our own country. Whether we have an effective defence for our own country, in alliance with other N.A.T.O. countries including the United States is vital to us, but the time has passed when we can also sort out the difficulties in the Far East and the Middle East. Our future rôle is very much in Europe.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. E. Shinwell (Easington)
I have just made a discovery I have learned that some hon. Members, in particular, the 1052 hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), gained their knowledge of defence and military strategy from attending the N.A.T.O. Parliamentarians Conference, where they were indoctrinated after having been brainwashed, where they conceived the notion peculiar to themselves—by the way, I have never been a delegate to that conference—that all we are required to do is to build up the forces of Europe, irrespective of the facts of the situation and the realities that confront them, and all will be well.
We had an example of that in the final words of the hon. and learned Gentleman, when he said that we should be concerned about the defence of Britain. Of course we are, but it is nothing to do with all this jargon about a world rôle. Of course we are concerned about our security. But what does the hon. and learned Gentleman provide as a specific for protecting and safeguarding ourselves and promoting our security?—a citizen army, a national guard, to fortify the police if there is any difficulty. What nonsense is this? Abandon the nuclear deterrent and nuclear defence. That concept runs right in the teeth of all the developments in military strategy during the last 10 or 15 years.
Take, for example, the White Paper that was issued in 1957 on behalf of the Conservative Government by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), when he was Minister of Defence. It abandoned the conventional weapon. There was to be a pause. Why? The sort of jargon we have heard tonight is a repetition of what we heard in our defence debates on that White Paper. It was the nuclear deterrent that was to safeguard us, and, so far as Europe is concerned, that remains the position.
The hon. and learned Member talks about an attack on Britain. By whom? How? By an invasion? How are we to be attacked? By air? If so, do we respond by using the citizen army envisaged by the hon. and learned Gentleman? Of course not. What is this nonsense?
§ Mr. Hooson
My view of the nuclear weapon is this. If we use a nuclear weapon we are committing suicide. Everybody knows this. This is not a matter of defence. The only attack to which we have any defence is a conventional attack.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. and learned Gentleman says that if we allow these weapons to be triggered off, that is suicide. That is the concept which was at the basis of the 1957 White Paper.
Let us look at the situation as it might have developed. Some conflict might arise out of a difference of opinion between East and West Germany or about the Oder-Neisse line. A possible conflict could emerge. The N.A.T.O. forces would seek to defend West Germany against East Germany, and defend us against East Germany as well as the oncoming of the Soviet conventional forces. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman know what the military chiefs thought about that? In my time as Minister of Defence, and ever since, our conventional forces would be completely liquidated in the course of a few days.
What is the N.A.T.O. situation? Has any hon. Member analysed the forces at the disposal of N.A.T.O.? What are they? There are the Dutch. I will not say much about them. They are almost negligible. Then there are the Belgians. What are they?—a division or two, not up to strength. Then the Luxembourgers. Really, Mr. Speaker, I ask you! Then there are the West Germans. They have promised 12 divisions. They have probably got 10 divisions—not up to strength and hardly fit to engage in a conventional conflict with the forces of Soviet Russia, or even East Germany. I challenge contradiction on that point. As for France, she has contracted out of the whole business. This is the situation in N.A.T.O.
Why do we pin our faith on N.A.T.O.? It is a symbol. Symbols are very useful sometimes, but N.A.T.O. is no more than that. We have known that for many years. So the right hon. Member for Streatham was wise in his generation, and we have remained to a certain extent wise ever since by understanding that the only means of protecting ourselves against a conventional attack on a large scale, which could not be contained for long, and then against an attack by atomic weapons, is the nuclear deterrent. That is the situation. We ought to have no more of this jargon about the rôle of Britain in the world.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
Could the right hon. Gentleman help the House? Am I to take it that he is maintaining that we have an independent nuclear deterrent? If so, would he be prepared independently to use it?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I am not in the confidence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who knows all about the nuclear deterrent, whether independent or otherwise. But I know that we have the Polaris submarines and missiles and I believe that we have a large number of nuclear bombs at our disposal which would be devastating in their effects. But, of course, our nuclear deterrent is limited in its effect when compared with the nuclear forces of Russia and the United States.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the Americans say that our Polaris is already obsolete?
§ Mr. Shinwell
I should not be surprised. Vast changes take place in military strategy. They took place in my time, even among military strategists, over and over again. Of course they change their minds, as do Governments.
I want to deal with the real point of the debate, which has been raised often by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), my hon. Friend the Member for Bosworth (Mr. Wyatt) and others. It is whether Britain has a rôle in the world. I am concerned about that. We cannot look too far ahead—certainly, I cannot. How can we promote security for ourselves, for our friends and for those with whom we have certain obligations—and I emphasise the word "obligations"? It is a question of security.
I support the Government in their efforts to reduce defence expenditure, not because I agree with the terms of the Amendment which was not selected, or the ill-founded assumption that, if we ceased to spend money on defence, we could spend ad nauseam on hospitals and other social services. I do not believe this to be possible. Nevertheless, of course, it is right to try to reduce defence expenditure wherever we can.
In stating my reservation, it may seem that I am almost in accord with the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell)—the last thing that I ever expected to happen. But I ask 1055 whether it is possible for the Government and the military chiefs and strategists associated with them to envisage, with the world as it is—in chaos, full of conflict—what will happen east of Suez or in South-East Asia in the mid-1970s.
One cannot look so far ahead—not nowadays with the world as it is. It is all too easy to indulge in a pipe dream and reduce expenditure as and when one can. But let us not forget our obligations. What are those obligations in that area?
As I have mentioned before, in the Attlee Cabinet we discussed the proposition that Britain should be associated with the proposed A.N.Z.U.S. pact. It was decided, largely on the advice of those associated with foreign affairs, that we should have nothing to do with it. I opposed that view. I thought that it would be better to be associated with the pact. What has happened since? Although we were not associated with the pact, we were faced with confrontation between Malaysia and Indonesia which involved us in enormous expense and use of manpower and will do so for some considerable time to come.
We have obligations to Australia and New Zealand, which are Commonwealth countries. We cannot sweep them under the carpet. We dare not. It would be morally wrong and reprehensible to do so, not because it affects our security but because these were obligations entered into a long time ago and implicit in the Commonwealth itself.
My hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East, surprisingly—although not to me, because I have read what he has said, and not to him, because he will recall what he said on a particular occasion—thinks that a military presence in Australia is desirable, with limited expenditure. If we agree in principle that a military presence in Australia is desirable, then surely the question of expenditure need not be considered at this moment because once one starts thinking only in terms of millions of pounds expenditure, it will escalate. It is the principle that matters now and I am all in favour of it. I hope that this will not be ignored by the Government at any time.
I want to say something about Europe that I have wished to say for some time. 1056 I have read the White Paper with great care. Having done so, and having listened to the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, I am even more convinced that my understanding was correct and that this is a dispute between those who want to retain forces east of Suez and those who want to concentrate on Europe. It is implicit in the White Paper. I assume that hon. Members have read it, but perhaps it can do no harm and might illuminate the minds of some hon. Members, and even of right hon. Gentlemen, if I read a quotation which I have marked in the White Paper:The security of Britain still depends above all on the prevention of war in Europe … it is essential to maintain both the military efficiency and the political solidarity of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation … we must continue to make a substantial contribution to N.A.T.O.'s forces in order to play our part in the defence of Europe and to maintain the necessary balance within the Western Alliance. This contribution will become even more important as we develop closer political and economic ties between Britain and her European neighbours.That is not all. There is a much better quotation. I subscribe to the view expressed by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery that my right hon. Friend has done an excellent job as Defence Secretary. I applaud his virtues while sometimes directing attention, with reservation, to his defects. My right hon. Friend said last October that N.A.T.O. was the core to the security and survival of the United Kingdom. He has mentioned it again in the White Paper. But he went on to say that aggression in Europe was unlikely. I may be wrong, but is there not a contradiction there?
§ Mr. Healey
What we have said repeatedly since I became Secretary of State is that we think that there is no danger of aggression in Europe so long as N.A.T.O. retains its military efficiency and political solidarity, and that we would not wish to do anything which would 1057 remove either its military efficiency or political solidarity because that might create the risk of war in Europe, and the risk of war there would be a major threat to our survival.
§ Mr. Shinwell
This is surprising. I wanted to support my right hon. Friend, but he is not giving me an opportunity to do so in saying that. Are the limited forces available in Europe to the countries associated with N.A.T.O. likely to prevent aggression? If Russia really meant trouble, there would be trouble. We should have to retaliate by using tactical atomic weapons, if we have them—I am doubtful about that; I think that Germany has some—and eventually the nuclear weapon. I therefore suggest that the limited forces will become even more limited.
I believe that there is a quarrel in the Cabinet. No doubt my right hon. Friend will say that one can never have a quarrel in the Cabinet. I know better. The conflict in the Cabinet is between those who believe that we should concentrate on Europe and those who believe that we should concentrate on the area east of Suez. The Government have concentrated on Europe. This has nothing to do with trying to get into the Common Market—or has it?
I have certain reservations about what is to happen east of Euez, in South-East Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf in the mid-1970s. My view is that it is unpredictable. We must be extremely careful. Secondly, we should withdraw more of our forces from Europe now that there is no fear of aggression. That is the place to save money.
I had hoped to hear more speeches by my hon. Friends who have sponsored the Amendment which Mr. Speaker saw fit, in his wisdom, not to select. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) will probably make a speech. But he goes far beyond the terms of the White Paper. There are many political permutations in the House on the subject of defence. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire is entirely against defence. He believes that we should have no more defence and that it is useless, anyway. This is a genuine con- 1058 viction. He is the only logical person among us.
Then there are those who say, "Let us reduce expenditure on defence either east of Suez or in Europe". There are those who say, "Let us reduce defence expenditure to provide more financial accommodation so that we can have the hospitals, family allowances, health services and other social services which hon. Members rightly demand". The Government say that we should reduce our defence expenditure largely because a section of the Labour Party demands it. I sometimes wonder whether the Government sit on the Front Bench or the back benches.
I ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to resist those blandishments. They are based on false assumptions. They are not related to the realities of the situation. For that reason, he should have nothing to do with them.
I think that that is all that it is necessary to say, except this. I was surprised that we should have had a speech of the character of that of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. He demanded more expenditure on defence.
§ Mr. Hooson
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not wish deliberately to misrepresent me. I was advocating that we should save money by cutting out the nuclear deterrent and our foreign obligations and provide a citizen army by way of the Territorial Army.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The hon. and learned Gentleman suggests that we should have an army to protect ourselves. That is childish. I am sure that his right hon. Friend the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) is not very happy about what he has just said.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I do not suppose that mine are very happy, either.
I am not altogether happy about what the Government are doing. I am not too 1059 happy about the terms of the Amendment which Mr. Speaker did not see fit to select. I am not happy about those who say that we should get out of the area east of Suez and everywhere else—in fact, have a universal scuttle—so that we have plenty of money to enjoy ourselves. I do not believe a word of it. We must be realists.
I do not want money to be spent on defence unnecessarily, but I believe that this country must have an adequate measure of defence. Some hon. Members want defence expenditure to be reduced by several hundreds of millions of pounds and then expect us to be adequately and effectively defended. If we must have defence, it must be well balanced. The forces must be properly balanced and they must be properly equipped; and we cannot ensure that without spending money. I deplore it, but, in the state of the world today and as it is likely to be for many years to come, defence is necessary.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Sir Fitzroy Maclean (Bute and North Ayrshire)
I am a prudent character and, therefore, I will not venture to join in the three-cornered battle between the right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shin-well), his own Front Bench and the Liberal Party. However, I was glad to hear what he said on two or three points—first, about obligations being obligations. This may seem obvious to him and to some of us. It does not seem quite so obvious to some of his hon. and right hon. Friends. I am glad, too, that, with his great authority, he has reservations about the Government's policy east of Suez and in the Far East. Finally, I was entertained, as I am sure we all were, by his query as to whether the Government sat on the Front Bench or on the back.
The most charitable thing one can say about the White Paper is that it is an incredibly muddled document, and nothing which the Secretary of State said did anything to change my opinion. Neither, I must say, did the comment of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) that it more nearly agreed with Liberal policy than any previous White Paper.
I say that the White Paper is muddled because it pretends on page 1 to keep options open and to allow "room for manœuvre". But it does nothing of 1060 the kind. Equally, it announces a whole series of devastating reductions and withdrawals and then goes on to say quite airily:We remain responsible for the security of our dependencies; we have obligations to our friends and allies; and we have a political and economic interest in the stability of the world outside Europe, which makes it desirable to retain a capacity for contributing to the maintenance of peace where we can usefully do so.But that is exactly what the Government are not doing. They have, in fact, abandoned any pretence of doing it.
Naturally, the proposed withdrawals and reductions are to be phased. The White Paper states—and this is another meaningless sentence:The Government's plans must be firm enough to ensure that we have the forces we need to match our remaining commitments in the Far East and elsewhere and flexible enough to enable us to respond to changes in local circumstances.But what the Government do not take into account in the White Paper is its inevitable psychological impact, the effect which they will have on potential friends and potential enemies alike—the same sort of impact as the recent premature announcement of our withdrawal from Men is having.
I am glad to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) mention Hong Kong, because psychology does play a rôle in these matters. If it becomes clear to those who do not wish us well that we have lost interest and that we do not mean business, they are far more likely to try things on than if they believe that we do mean business. And whatever the White Paper may say or does not say, it will inevitably be interpreted as foreshadowing a wholesale abdication of our obligations, undertakings and commitments outside Europe.
Both our friends and our foes will make their dispositions accordingly; our foes to ensure that our withdrawal is accelerated and exploited to the utmost and made as uncomfortable and as undignified as possible, and our friends to reinsure elsewhere as best they can.
§ Mr. John Lee (Reading)
Accepting that premise for the sake of the argument, does it not follow that the hon. Member is advocating open-ended expenditure on defence, if it should prove necessary, to satisfy needs east of Suez? The sky must be the limit. Is not that so?
§ Sir F. Maclean
Not at all. That is not what I am advocating. I am advocating maintenance of an adequate level of conventional forces, which is exactly what the hon. Member's leader advocated when in opposition and continued to advocate until quite recently even when he was in government, which is a quite different matter.
What I contemplate happening is that we shall find the whole structure of our defence—because these cuts cannot be made with impunity—crumbling about our ears with no options and none of the "room to manoeuvre", of which the White Paper makes such a point.
But, in spite of that, this ridiculous document goes on talking of continuing commitments and obligations. And in doing so, it is only echoing what Ministers have been saying in public, not only when they were in opposition, but since they have been in power. What this means, if it means anything at all, is that we shall have to face unforeseen and, to a great extent, self-inflicted emergencies and commitments with inadequate and overstretched forces. Which is very hard, among other things, on the forces concerned, as we have seen in Aden and Southern Arabia.
Some hon. Members opposite will say, "What of it? We have no business there anyhow." That, rather over-simplified, is the view of the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), who, if there were any justice in the world, should at once be reinstated in the Ministry of Defence. The White Paper entirely justifies his views. But, of course, there is no justice, least of all in the Labour Party.
Now that, although I do not agree with it, is a perfectly logical and tenable view. What does not make sense is the halfhearted, halfway position adopted by the Government in going on talking of commitments and, at the same time, drastically reducing our defences, which is bound to end in their having the worst of both worlds.
Clearly, despite all their talk of flexibility and room to manœuvre, such an attitude is bound to lead in the end to outbreaks of disorder and violence and to our troops, and the Army in particular—because it is the Army and the infantry—incidentally, not a very expensive arm—who will always bear the brunt 1062 of these affairs—being placed in the sort of position in which our troops have been placed in Aden and forced to withdraw in the most deplorable circumstances from places where, in the past, we have exercised a beneficent and stabilising influence.
To my mind, there is only one good point about the White Paper and that is a purely personal and also a purely negative one. It does not lay hands on the Highland Brigade. The Highland Brigade is a resolute body of men. They have many friends in high places and they have managed to survive. It is a lesson from which we can all learn. Unfortunately, that does not apply to the Lowland Brigade. The Secretary of State has chosen to wipe out a regiment with an old and distinguished tradition of service, the Cameronians. They have not been amalgamated; they have been wiped out. I am sure that anybody who ever knew them during the war or at any other time will be very sorry to see them go.
The Times, in a recent leader, talked pityingly of "the dwindling minority for whom east of Suez evokes nostalgia for a past empire"—a typical turn of phrase. One can take various views of the British Empire and the rôle which it has played in the past 100 or 200 years. I take a good one. Nostalgia, however, is not a basis for a policy and the past is not what we are concerned with today. We are concerned with the world situation at the present time, the present world balance of power, the present threats to world peace and stability and the effect which a precipitate withdrawal from east of Suez by us is likely to provide. It is in that context, and not in any old-fashioned imperial context, that I believe the withdrawal will prove calamitous.
First, we shall be letting, down our friends and allies and encouraging our enemies Let us think for a moment of the effect that that is likely to have on the position of the Americans, and also of the Australians and the New Zealanders now fighting in Vietnam. Opinion in this House about the rights and wrongs of Vietnam is divided. I believe, and at times the Government seem to believe, that we should give the Americans and the Dominion countries which are fighting there at least moral, if not actual physical, support. But the Government 1063 could not have done them a worse turn than by producing this White Paper. I wonder whether they or any of our other allies will ever trust us again after what has happened.
Secondly, we shall be creating, arbitrarily and suddenly, a vast power vacuum, an area of chaos and stability of which our enemies will take immediate advantage and which none of our allies will be able to fill. It is all very well to talk about possibly having troops in Australia or floating about in ships. That does not replace troops on the ground, the actual presence which matters so much.
§ Sir F. Maclean
If the hon. Member does not know that, he does not know which side he is on, which I have always found it most important to know in almost any set of circumstances. The hon. Member also cannot read the newspapers very much. If he were to read them, he would see that certain countries constantly attack us and all we stand for in the most unrestrained manner. I will not give way to him again, but I will leave him to work that out for himself.
What I complain of is that the withdrawal will put an intolerable burden on what will be left of our forces. It is all too easy to imagine the effect of what is being done on morale, and, therefore, also on recruiting. And here I am reminded of the eloquent speeches made by the Paymaster-General about what happens when units are undermanned and over-stretched. I remember agreeing with almost everything he said about that.
I am also reminded of what we both used to say about the dangers of over-dependence on nuclear weapons and not having adequate conventional forces—once again, about the importance in an emergency of having more than one option, so as not to be faced with what I think President Kennedy called a choice between humiliation and all-out nuclear action. But it was not just the Paymaster-General who said this. He was then a back bencher and rather on his own. It was also said by far more influential Members of the Labour Front Bench, including the present Prime Minister.
1064 It is indeed ironical, after everything which has been said on this subject from both sides of the House and from political platforms all over the country, that under a Labour Government the independent British nuclear deterrent—if that is the right word for it—should not only survive but have become the mainstay of what is left of our defences. All that seems a long time ago, but in the light of what is happening now, the arguments in question seem to me to be far more pertinent today than ever they were then.
Worst of all, when the extent that this mistake—this "historic decision", as the Secretary of State called it—becomes obvious to all, the danger is that it will be too late for this or some future Government to undo the harm which will have been done. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) so eloquently said, an army or navy or air force is something which misguided politicians may find it very easy to destroy, but it is something which it is immensely slow and difficult to build up again. And, by then, in all probability, the harm will have been done, and it will be too late.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Christopher Mayhew (Woolwich, East)
Obviously, I must begin by thanking the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bute and North Ayrshire (Sir F. Maclean) for reinstating me in the Ministry of Defence. At the risk of sounding churlish, however, I must say that the Government have not entirely worked their passage back into my favour. There are parts of their Defence White Paper which I feel very strongly critical about, and I know that this view is shared by a number of my hon. Friends.
May I draw the attention of the House to the fact that, unconsciously, we are beginning to accept the Government's new definition of the word "commitment". I noticed that particularly from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson), who spoke for the Liberal Party. I think that we need to be on our guard about this. It is perfectly clear what the word "commitment" means. It means and has always meant an obligation in certain circumstances to fight. That is what it means. It is an obligation to fight 1065 in certain circumstances. That is what it has always meant.
Of course, the Government have been under heavy attack for years now, certainly for 18 months, for cutting military resources without cutting commitments. What do they do? They redefine the word "commitments" to mean the resources which are needed to fulfil the commitments. They come to the House and say, "Of course, we are cutting commitments. We are cutting 17 major Army units." These are not commitments at all, and the House must make this plain. A commitment is an obligation to fight in certain circumstances, and that is the way in which I propose to use the word.
Of course, the central question here is, as it has been for some time now: are the cuts in resources proposed by the Government matched by the cuts in commitments? An old and familiar question.
I am bound to say that when the White Paper was published I felt that it should be warmly welcomed. I hope that the House approves the White Paper tonight, but I must say that some of the doubts I have felt at first have been very much increased by speeches by Government spokesmen, in the House of Lords on Wednesday, and by some of the statements of the Secretary of State this afternoon.
The Secretary of State spoke of cuts in commitments. He spoke of big foreign policy changes, but the more one probes, the more that is revealed by the Government, the more vague, and ambiguous, and unsatisfactory these so-called cuts in commitments appear. Take the Singapore base. The Government keep on suggesting that the withdrawal from the Singapore base is a cut in commitments. It is a misuse of terms. The commitment is to defend Malaysia. The base is a means of fulfilling our commitment. So far from reducing our commitment, by taking the base away, we to that extent make it more difficult to fulfil the commitment. Indeed, when I asked the Secretary of State this afternoon about the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty, which is a commitment, he said that the costings for the defence budget in 1975 made provision for continuing our commitment under the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty. So do not let us be deceived on that point.
§ Mr. Healey
May I help my hon. Friend here? There is no obligation either under S.E.A.T.O. or under the Malaysian Treaty as such for this country to fight in any circumstances. The commitment arises from the plan agreed with the other Governments who are party to the Treaty to provide certain types of forces in certain circumstances. These commitments are being revised, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) pointed out in a speech from which I quoted this afternoon.
§ Mr. Mayhew
If the Secretary of State is now saying that in 1975 we shall not be obliged to fight in defence of Malaysia if attacked, it is a very important statement.
§ Mr. Healey
No. We are not obliged under the Treaty as drafted to fight now, but we have accepted certain commitments in the context of the Treaty by agreement with the Malaysian Government which we are revising with their agreement, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire recommended us to do earlier this year.
Precisely the same is the case with the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, which imposes no obligation under the Treaty for any of its members to fight in any circumstances. The question is: what further arrangements within the context of the Treaty are made by the parties to it, in particular, what force declarations are made, to fulfil contingency plans?
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire made very plain in his speech in 1965, from which I quoted, it is open to the British Government at any time in the case of S.E.A.T.O. to change their force declarations even without consultation, though we would not wish to.
In the case of the Malaysian Treaty, we have an obligation to consult on changes. We have so consulted, and we have got agreement with the other parties to the Treaty to the steps which we propose to take.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Well that is still not altogether clear to me—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] It is a profoundly important subject—
§ Mr. Mayhew
—but, from what the Secretary of State has said, he is now revising our commitments under the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty, and, from the definitions he has given, it would be possible for us so to revise those commitments that even though the Treaty continued we would not be obliged to fight on Malaysia's behalf. That, I think, is important.
§ Mr. Healey
It is important to get this clear, because many hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, do not understand the facts. In the case of that Treaty, we are obligated to get the agreement of Malaysia to any change in the nature of the commitments which we accepted under the Treaty. In the case of the S.E.A.T.O. Treaty, that is not so.
§ Mr. Mayhew
Yes. However, I am glad to have made that important point clearer. The fact remains that the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty continues to have validity after 1975, according to the Government's policy.
§ Mr. Goodhew
I sought to put down a Question to the right hon. Gentleman on 5th July on the subject, but it was transferred to the Commonwealth Secretary. I asked what proposals he had for renegotiating the agreement to defend Malaysia and Singapore. I was told that the Government have no proposals at this time. So there are not proposals to renegotiate the treaty to defend them.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I hope that I shall be permitted to say a few words during my speech.
A second commitment after 1975, according to my right hon. Friend's statement this afternoon, is that we shall still have our military presence in the Gulf. He stated that the costings of £1,800 million in the 1975 defence budget would include provision for our continued presence in the Gulf.
A third commitment which still remains is that to S.E.A.T.O. We understand that the forces allocated to S.E.A.T.O. are to be lessened. However, the level of forces which we have allocated to S.E.A.T.O. has never been a significant factor in our defence planning. We have never held forces in the Far East because of our S.E.A.T.O. obligations. The forces which we have 1068 assigned to S.E.A.T.O. have always been the forces which we had there, anyhow, because of our other obligations, in particular, those under the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty. Frankly, the whole S.E.A.T.O. set-up is largely meaningless.
S.E.A.T.O. can only act with unanimity, and one of its members is France and another is Pakistan. It has never acted. All military action taken in South-East Asia has been by bilateral agreement between one country and another, including the United States. The reduction of our forces under S.E.A.T.O. cannot be considered as a cut in commitments.
Another commitment which remains is the one to participate in United Nations peace-keeping east of Suez, if such a force is established. I assume that this will be one of the functions of a residual military presence in Australia. If that is so, there will be wide agreement that there is a proper function for such a force to fulfil.
Another commitment is that we ought to be ready if the territories of Australia and New Zealand are threatened, which they are not now and are not likely to be. In such an event, there would be a wide feeling in Britain that we ought to be prepared to make our contribution, and this will be a second function of the residual military presence east of Suez, based on Australia.
However, the commitments go further. Page 6 of the White Paper says:… we cannot assume that, once we have left Singapore and Malaysia, we shall never again have to use our forces in the Far East, since we shall have dependencies and other obligations there for the foreseeable future.Those "other obligations" are not only the United Nations obligation and the obligation to come to the assistance of Australia if required. They are much wider. It means that, after 1975, the Government still envisage military operations outside the United Nations on the mainland of Asia.
I was disturbed by the statement of the Government spokesman in another place on Tuesday. The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, quoted the remarks of the Opposition Leader in another place, the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, thatWe should still retain … the ability to reinforce with air power and an amphibious 1069 force capable of showing a British presence in that part of the world, and useful not only for the support of the Asian S.E.A.T.O. but for international disorders and keeping the peace, and showing the flag in those areas of the Pacific for which we still have responsibility.Lord Shackleton quoted that statement and said:That, I think, reasonably represents the views of Her Majesty's Government"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 25th July. 1967; Vol. 285, c. 720.]What, then, are our commitments under the White Paper? Summed up, they are the Anglo-Malaysian Treaty, the commitment in the Gulf, the diminished commitment to S.E.A.T.O., the United Nations commitment, the Australia and New Zealand commitment, and now this wide-ranging Asian peace-keeping commitment as described by Lord Shackleton. If that is the policy of the Government, some of the criticisms of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) to the effect that we were cutting our forces below what was needed to fulfil these commitments have some validity. There can be no doubt about that, and I want some reassurance from the Government on the point.
There is an element of vagueness in the White Paper—ambiguity about these commitments and the dates when we are doing this or that. When I read the White Paper, I thought that the ambiguity was due to the fact that we wished to lessen the shock of this decision on the Governments affected east of Suez. I recalled conversations with high-ranking and responsible people in those countries. Their attitude was, "If you must go, go. But for heaven's sake wrap up your decision to go. Do not make it too stark." I can understand that argument very well.
When I read the ambiguities in the White Paper, I gave the Government the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the ambiguity concealed an intention to wind up east of Suez coupled with a determination to embarrass our friends and allies as little as possible. Is my assumption right? I am a little shaken by the other facts which I have given about our continuing commitments east of Suez, and I hope that the position will be made clear by the Government.
Vagueness about our commitments is most dangerous. Where we have mili- 1070 tary commitments, it is essential that they should be precise, clearly understood by ourselves, by our friends and by our adversaries, and backed with sufficient military power to fulfil them effectively. Where we have military commitments, that must be so.
Take Berlin, for example. There, we have a firm commitment bound by a tightly worded treaty, with forces on the spot and with a vital strategic interest. The fact that Berlin is independent today is largely due to the clearness and firmness of the commitments to it of ourselves and our allies.
That is one kind of commitment. We also have very weak commitments of a different kind. They are weak for two reasons, one of which is because no one is quite sure whether we would regard ourselves as bound by them and would take military action. The other is because, even if we took military action, no one is sure that we have the military power to carry it out effectively.
Take the case of Agaba. Were we or were we not committed to clearing Egyptian territorial waters for the passage of essential supplies to Israel? We had no treaty commitment, no forces on the snot, and no vital strategic interest. Yet a vague sense of obligation, plus an aircraft carrier within a journey of a day or two involved us in a situation full of danger in which we might have had to take military action for which we were not prepared and which we did not have the power to fulfil. Our action disappointed the Israelis, and enraged the Arabs. The White Paner is laying down for the future, if it is not cleared up, similarly weak, vague, and ambiguous commitments in the Far East, just as we had in the Middle East only a few weeks ago. I sometimes get the impression that the Government are seeking to dispose of their commitments not by negotiation and diplomacy, but simply by making ourselves incapable of carrying them out. This is a very dangerous and dishonourable way of going about it.
Vagueness in commitments can easily lead to disastrous misunderstanding. Our friends expect us to weigh in with military action on their behalf, when, in fact, we are not powerful enough to do so, or are 1071 not intending such action. Our adversaries, on the other hand, may think that we will stand aside and not go in, when, in fact, we are going in. A lack of precision in commitments of the kind set out in the White Paper can be disastrous, and a cause of instability instead of stability.
It is the period from 1971 to 1975 which seems to me to be the most dangerous. Before 1971 it is fairly clear that we are committed, and, what is more, before 1971 we will still have some troops. After 1975, at least we will be clear of the ground in Singapore. Our commitments will be much less binding upon us, and we shall obviously not have the necessary military power to intervene. But under the Government's defence plans there will be a period between 1971 and 1975 when our commitments will reach their maximum ambiguity, and our troops their maximum weakness.
This is the great danger. We shall have cut by then to 17 major Army units. We shall have cut our supply and repair facilities. We shall have only one aircraft carrier available, and that a very old one.
§ Mr. Mayhew
As my right hon. Friend must know, the fact that there are two carriers in commission does not mean that they are operationally available at the same time. There is the question of refitting, and going to the area of operations. During this period we shall have one carrier, and one only, available for operational purposes, and it will be a very old one. Experience, unfortunately, confirms that even with the most dedicated and skilful servicing and maintenance an old carrier can go wrong when it is on operational duty.
The Government will say, "It is true that we will be militarily weak at this period, but we will fly out the troops". This is no solution at all. For the last 10 years the Ministry of Defence has 1072 had the slogan, "Station the men in Britain, and fly them out". There is, first, the problem of over-flying rights which makes this a very uncertain business. Secondly, it is extremely expensive. We should need more transport planes. Thirdly, troops in Scotland cannot deter aggression in South-East Asia, nor can troops inured and acclimatised to the Scottish winter fight efficiently a day later in the jungles of Borneo. Nor can they carry out a hearts-and-minds project of peace-keeping, which was an essential contribution to the success of confrontation.
Where will they land, anyway? If there is real trouble in Singapore, they will not be able to land on the airfields there. All these things add up to the fact that one cannot bail oneself out suddenly by flying troops from England to the Far East.
My conclusion is that this dangerous period between 1971 and 1975 should be made as short as it can be. What are the political and military reasons for not winding up the bases in 1972, rather than 1975? Is it only the economic argument that we need the later date? If it is, we should leave these bases in 1972 and give our economic help to Singapore in the form of purely civil economic aid.
I recall the campaign which my hon. Friends and I have been running. We said that we should be clear of Malaysia, Singapore, and the Persian Gulf by 1970. We chose that date about 18 months ago. I think that today we would say we should be clear by 1972, but it is my conclusion that by then, while we maintain a residual capacity in Australia for the purposes which I have mentioned, we should have no military commitments either in the Middle East or in Asia, otherwise than as members of the United Nations.
I want, now, to make a few comments on the Opposition's east of Suez policy. It would be an exaggeration to say that floods of light were thrown on this by the speech this afternoon of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West. Indeed, to some of my hon. Friends and myself who are sceptical about the Opposition's east of Suez rôle, the right hon. Gentleman is a constant disappointment. At one time we regarded him as one of our most promising pupils. He still advocates withdrawal from east of 1073 Suez at weekends. What he has not mastered is the problem of withdrawing from the Far East, without withdrawing from the Front Bench. This is the problem.
However, by looking back last week to the speeches of the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire, and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) we can get a fair picture of what the Opposition intend east of Suez. They say that they are worried about the threat to South-East Asian countries from China. They think that we should not withdraw our protection from those countries until they can protect themselves. That, broadly speaking, is the Opposition's view, and it sounds reasonable and responsible enough until we ask what kind of threat precisely do they mean?
Do they mean the threat of external aggression by China? If they do, their policy is based on two totally false assumptions. First, that our military presence there now protects those countries against Chinese military aggression. The Chinese have 105 infantry, four armoured, three cavalry, and two airborne divisions. Against this, a Conservative Government, with a special effort, and with extra expenditure, could muster perhaps two divisions. The Opposition complain that the Government's east of Suez policy over-stretches the forces. Their east of Suez policy would give our men an opportunity of heroism unequalled since the Charge of the Light Brigade.
The Opposition may say that they do not intend to fight on ground, but in the air and on the sea. But who will fight on the ground against Chinese aggression—the Americans? At the moment, 500,000 Americans are in that area, not containing China, but trying to contain North Vietnam. The idea that our east of Suez rôle can deter or defeat Chinese military aggression is a dangerous delusion.
The Opposition may say, "But are you not leaving our friends and allies wide open to Chinese aggression?". We have discussed this before, and I shall not go into it at length. All non-Communist neighbours of Communist countries are at risk, but it is not necessarily true that if they are not protected by a Western Alliance they will be over-run. Nor is it necessarily true that the risks to them of a neutral policy are any greater than 1074 the risks of a military alliance with the West.
Let us look at some of the non-Communist neighbours of the Communist world. Let us consider the risks facing Finland, or Burma, or Austria, compared with those facing countries allied with the West, such at Vietnam and Thailand. Would Finland's independence have been more secure since the war if she had had N.A.T.O. bases there? Would Burma's independence have been more secure if she had been a member of S.E.A.T.O.? Of course, there are bound to be risks either way for South-East Asia in the 1970s. But in my view, there are strong reasons for believing that the risks will be less for a strict policy of non-alignment than for a policy of military alliance with the Western countries.
Finally, they may say that it is a threat of subversion and not aggression. This question has often been discussed and I will not go into it again in detail, but if their conception of the maintenance of a military presence east of Suez is to counter internal Communist subversion it makes even less sense than the other alternative. Malaya and Singapore are not helpless against internal Communist subversion; they have enormous advantages over any Communist rebel group.
They have a trained and experienced Army, police force, security service and intelligence service. They are internationally recognised and politically advanced. Why should we suppose that they cannot cope with this internal problem of Communist subversion? Indeed, would not the introduction of Western military power weaken rather than strengthen them in what is essentially the political battle against Communism?
§ Mr. Mayhew
Last time, as the colonial Power, we were there and had to take action. Today, Malaya is a different country, and a much stronger one.
The Conservatives say that we must have an east of Suez presence. They believe in it. At least I can agree with them that if we stay east of Suez we must strengthen our seaborne air power. Everything that has happened in the last 18 months, from the blockade of Rhodesia to the Government's plan for South Arabia 1075 next year, proves that to stay east of Suez while phasing out the aircraft carriers is utter folly.
What do the Opposition propose in respect of this seaborne air power? I will not go into the question in detail, but they have not said how they would get round this problem. They do not propose to build CVAO1. It is too late. It would not be operational till 1975 at the earliest. I doubt whether the shipbuilding industry would tender for it in view of all the uncertainty. They will probably find that they will have to buy American carriers to carry their strategy through, and then more American Phantoms, and to protect the carriers they will have to build more Type 82s. They will have to abandon all these cuts. They will have to put back the 17 major Army units and put back the research cuts. They will have to find an alternative to the Anglo-French variable geometry aircraft. We must have a long-range strike-reconnaissance aircraft for our east of Suez strategy.
Like my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, I have costed the Conservative Party's defence budget. I am sorry to disappoint my hon. Friend, but my conclusion is that it will be a much lower figure than the Secretary of State's. According to my calculations, the cost of a defence budget under the Conservative Party's policy would, at 1964 prices, total £2,250 million in 1975. That is £450 million more than the Government budget. That is excluding anything we have heard about the right hon. Gentleman's European policy.
Let us be generous and add another £50 million for the right hon. Gentleman's European policy. That would make it £500 million more. [Interruption.] I cannot explain the discrepancy between my figures and those of my right hon. Friend's except on one assumption—that the Service Chiefs, asked to estimate for a Conservative defence budget, slipped back into their old extravagant way. Do we seriously expect the Conservative Party to find the money? It is easy enough to finance a defence policy like theirs out of the shadow budget of a shadow Chancellor, but it is much more difficult to do the thing on the ground.
I do not believe that they would find the money. They would merely repeat, 1076 on a grander scale, the crime that the Government committed in the Defence Review, of giving the troops tasks far beyond the resources given them to carry out those tasks.
I feel that I have not conveyed to the House my overall feeling that in spite of these serious defects this White Paper is a move in the right direction. It is a move out of the area east of Suez and towards Europe and that, in my view, is the right direction for British policy to go. I urge my hon. Friends—some of whom I know, from their Amendment if nothing else, have the strongest reservation about the White Paper—to recognise that this is a move in the right direction.
Let us join forces with the Government tonight and give a resounding defeat to the Opposition.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I agree with the point made at the beginning of the speech of the right hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), namely, that the main charge against the Government's defence policy is that they have cut forces rather than commitments and have thus placed a further and perhaps almost intolerable strain upon our forces. He can make out a lucid and logical case for cutting commitments ill order to save money. I would, however, rather spend a little more in order to maintain essential commitments.
Then we must face the question, what are our essential commitments? All I say on that at the moment is that I believe that we still have some East of Suez, although these may not include static bases on the continent of Asia.
I intend to attack the Government's defence policy. Therefore, it is only fair to say that I have found much to criticise in the past in Conservative defence policy. I believe that the rapid succession of Conservative Ministers of Defence was resented by the Armed Forces. I believe that certain planning mistakes were made. For example, I believe that we should never have cancelled Blue Water. But the Conservative Government made a historic decision, which the present Government is now recognising as vital to our future, in negotiating the Nassau Agreement, that 1077 gave us Polaris, which is still to be maintained as the main weapon in our armoury.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell), I attack the Government's defence policy not for party political purposes, but because I sincerely believe that it will lead this country to disaster. The fundamental mistake made by the party opposite was made before it assumed office, when it decided to peg defence costs at £2,000 million a year at 1964 prices.
When the Labour Party came to office it found that it was impossible to cut commitments. Therefore, the Government had to start cutting forces to reach their financial target. They decided, in this cutting of forces, to start with the key weapons rather than the men and now we have to face the result of this policy. After five years of Socialist Government the Navy will have Polaris, but it will have no new carrier, no new class of Type 82 destroyer, no base at Malta, Aden or, later, at Singapore, and, above all, it will be deprived of air cover and support.
The Royal Air Force will have only two new British-built aircraft, the Harrier—and, incidentally, I hear that that may be under threat; I hope that the Prime Minister will say whether the production order for the Harrier has been made and how big it is to be, so as to stop the rumour, if it is untrue—
§ Mr. Reynolds
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the actual numbers ordered have never been given by any Government.
§ Mr. Wall
The orders for F. 111Ks and the Phantom have been exchanged frequently in this House. Apparently, details can be given when ordering American aircraft. but not when we order from our own factories.
Too few aircraft have been purchased at great cost to make sense of the R.A.F.'s future rôle. The Army will be confined now to B.A.O.R., which provides the only training area for its armour and also, of course, to Britain, and it is to be deprived of its reserves. All this for what? To save £500 million over ten years from 1965. I am quoting from the speech of the noble Lord who 1078 led for the Government last Tuesday in another place. Because we can no longer afford an adequate defence policy, the Government are cutting the Forces by 37,000 and at the same time negativing their economic argument by increasing the Civil Service by no less than 40,000.
Why can we not afford adequate defence forces—because production in this country, which was increasing by 3 to 5 per cent. a year under the Conservatives is now virtually static. The Government argue that they must cut expenditure, not on the social services—not yet—because that would lose votes, so they decide to cut the Services. They take risks with the country's future. After all, they know very well that they are unlikely to be in charge in 1975, when the consequences of their present policy must be faced.
What are the world-wide repercussions of five years of Socialist defence policy? In Europe, cuts in B.A.O.R. which will make them more dependent on tactical nuclear weapons which in turn will make nuclear war inevitable in the event of a major Soviet attack. Malta has contracted out, as she recently did in the Middle East crisis. How long will it be before Gibraltar is sold to Spain to save money or to preserve profitable trade—although we refuse to build Spanish warships? We have virtually contracted out of the Middle East and appear to be in Cyprus only to support the U.N. peace-keeping force. What about the Middle East? In Aden, it is now clear that we will destroy our friends in the Federal Government and hand over to our enemies in F.L.O.S.Y. and S.A.L. and then we will talk of an honourable settlement. I am prepared to wager that we will be out of the Persian Gulf one year after leaving Aden, unless economic circumstances topple President Nasser before then. In the Far East, by telling Singapore that we intend to quit ten years before leaving, we ensure that the local people will make their peace with our successors and the best way of doing that is to be beastly to the British while they are still there. We are likely to see an Aden on an even larger scale. As for Hong Kong, can anyone now put his trust in the British Government?
I believe that the Forces cuts will be followed by an axe and compensation 1079 is to be half as generous as under previous schemes. Conscription may be only around the corner. There is unlikely, under a Socialist regime, to be sufficient volunteers for the three Services, particularly the Army, and we may have to resort to conscription even to produce the small Army that is envisaged in ten years' time.
Another consideration which seems to have been forgotten by hon. Gentlemen opposite is the armaments industry. It is pilloried when it makes a profit, and, for purely party political purposes, is prevented from selling arms to countries which the Government do not like. It may not even supply arms to our allies in America or our Commonwealth cousins in Australia and New Zealand, if those arms are to be used in Vietnam. It is small wonder that our armament firms are turning to other fields, but this means that we will never again be able to equip our forces in a hurry should this become necessary.
I turn now to our Navy in the 1970s. We will still have Polaris, thank heavens, but, because of the cancellation of one boat, we will be unable to guarantee that the nuclear deterrent will always be effective. We will have no carriers. I would commend to the House Lord Watkinson's speech in another place last Tuesday, when he pointed out that our conception of the carrier was not as the capital ship of the future but as a floating airfield.
The key problem is that we must have air cover not only for our warships but, even more so, for convoys of merchant ships. The hon. Gentleman looks surprised. He may think that convoys became out of date after the last war, but he is always talking of the possibility of conventional rather than nuclear war. Does he, therefore, think that it will not be necessary, in a conventional war, to have a convoy system in the Indian Ocean area? I hope that he is right, but what happens if we do need a convoy system? Where will it get air protection? The R.A.F. is unlikely to have enough aircraft or island airfields in the right places and at the right time.
We are told that the main striking power of the Fleet is to be the Fleet submarine. How will the Fleet submarine protect convoys of merchant ships? Our trade and our troops will 1080 have to pass over the surface of the sea, not underneath it. The concept which has been described as the Healey carrier, with vertical take-off aircraft, was rejected only last week in another place by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who said that it was too expensive. Instead of the Healey aircraft carrier with vertical take-off aircraft we are to have new cruisers operating Sea King helicopters which is made credible we are told by the use of a stand-off weapon. This is to be the weapon of the future on which the Navy will depend—the helicopter.
Helicopters will be armed with a new surface-to-surface weapon, possibly the Martell, possibly some other weapon, operating against surface craft, and with the Mark 31 anti-submarine torpedo operating against submarines. Yet it is clear that in many circumstances helicopters are sitting ducks. Any fixed-wing aircraft operating in the area can shoot helicopters out of the sky. Moreover there is a recent development in a certain part of the world of a weapon which can be discharged from a submerged submarine and which can shoot down a helicopter without the helicopter even knowing that the submarine is in the vicinity. Yet the Navy must now rely on the helicopter for protection and strike capability.
This folly will have to be reversed and eventually the Government will have to produce these small, cheaper and less sophisticated aircraft carriers operating vertical take-off aircraft. In the meantime, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, will the new cruisers, of which we have heard for the first time in the White Paper, be capable of operating vertical take-off aircraft? They are to carry the Sea King, which will be a large helicopter when it is finally produced, so I take it that if necessary they could operate vertical take-off aircraft. I should like confirmation of that.
Next I come to the surface-to-surface missiles. As my right hon. Friend said, this point was mentioned in previous White Papers. This was to be the weapon which supplanted the aircraft carrier. It now becomes apparent that it is a mythical weapon which will be some weapon to be discharged from a submarine's torpedo tube which will then become airborne so as to attack ships 1081 on the surface. I quote what was said about it in another place in last Friday's debate:We are also studying new submarine-launched anti-surface ship weapons in order to develop still further the potential of our Fleet submarines. It is too early to say what form this will take".—[OFFICIAL REPORT. House of Lords, 25th July, 1967: Vol. 285, c 712.]Yet this is to be the striking power of the Navy, in the 1970's—this and the helicopter. But it is too early to say what form either would take or how they will operate! What can now be done? Even faced with the disastrous decisions which have been taken by the Government, much can still be saved. I believe that the key area of the world, in terms of both population and of threat, is the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. We need amphibious forces operating on each flank of the Indian Ocean, operating from support areas in South Africa on one side and Australia on the other. I believe that a commando could be embarked on commando carriers operating from these areas. One commando must remain ashore while the other is embarked.
I warn right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they cannot keep a commando at sea for more than three weeks without ruining its efficiency. We have heard all about their "floating around" South East Asia, but we shall never have useful commandoes if we keep them "floating around" South-East Asia or anywhere else for over a month at sea without landing and without exercise. I believe that if the Government adopted this idea even now we could obtain the maximum effect in the Indian Ocean and the maximum influence at a minimum cost.
I agree with the decision, but not the method, of leaving expensive land bases on the mainland of Asia. But if we do so, it makes absolutely essential the continuance of the Fleet Air Arm based on floating airfields—unsophisticated aircraft carriers—and on other ships operating vertical take-off aircraft.
When the Conservative Party left power it left behind three balanced Services equipped with powerful British-built weapons. It was expensive, but, with growing industrial production as we then had, it should and could have been afforded. We now face a policy which 1082 could lead to the virtual dismemberment of the Forces and which has already, I believe, led to a decline in morale and recruitment. We are told that economies are essential to save money, yet the Government are enlarging our expensive bureaucracy and Civil Service. Once again it has been proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. Our only hope of maintaining any British influence is to withdraw gradually from static bases, and concentrate on mobile amphibious forces east of Suez. To do so, those forces must have their own air cover.
I make this suggestion with all sincerity. If the policy I have suggested is followed, our forces east of Suez could be operated by one Service. In the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman says that the requirements east of Suez will be considerably reduced. Could not this requirement be fulfilled in peacetime—and I emphasise "peacetime"—by the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the Fleet Air Arm, leaving the Army and the R.A.F. to concentrate on its primary peace-time rôle; namely, continental warfare in Europe?
If the Government are not imposing cuts because they have always traditionally been opposed to the Armed Services and if they are genuinely trying to provide the best forces with the money available, I hope that this suggestion will receive their fullest consideration, for I say again that, in my view, the vital area of the world in the next generation will be the Indian Ocean and the South Pacific. We still have a rôle to play for our future as well as for the future of the free world.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Older hon. Members know that I have taken up critical attitudes towards Defence White Papers and Defence Ministers for the last 20 years. Each time a new White Paper comes along I become more critical. I cannot say that any of my speeches have had the slightest influence on the Government. They have been pearls thrown before empty benches, often in the early hours of the morning.
When in opposition I always maintained that no Labour Government could fulfil their pledges to the people—their 1083 promises of great social advances, of more schools, better education and a rising standard of living—unless they made drastic reductions in defence expenditure. I cannot say that my exhortations have had the slightest effect, but the economic facts and reality of the situation have. Now it has dawned on the people of Britain, if not on the Government, that the time has come when the Labour Party cannot fulfil its pledges unless it takes a far more drastic attitude to what are politely called Defence Estimates.
The situation tonight reminds me of the economic crisis and the defence argument of 1951. The Labour Government of that time went in for a great rearmament programme and, to pay for it, they cut the social services. We had the resignation of the present Prime Minister and of Mr. Aneurin Bevan. There followed a very prolonged argument within the Labour Party.
It looks as though this argument will go on through 1967, because we have now had the resignation of the Minister of Social Security. I shall not go into the reasons for that except to say that the right hon. Lady wanted more money for pensions, family endowments and other social services than the Government were Prepared to give. So the right hon. Lady, for whom I have a great admiration, symptomises the argument going on throughout the Labour movement: can we give to the people those things we promised if we continue to spend on defence as Conservative Governments have done in the past?
In this argument the Government may appear to have a great majority in the House, but that will not be reflected in the opinion of the country. I do not think that it is reflected now. The Government, in carrying on their expenditure at this rate, are getting into economic difficulties and, ultimately, if they do not fulfil their pledges, they will go down to overwhelming disaster, as they did in 1951.
That is the note of warning that I and my hon. Friends who have signed one of the Amendments are sounding. We demand further cuts in expenditure, and an entirely new orientation of thinking on what is politely called "defence". The 1084 background to this is, as nearly everyone will agree—it is agreed in the United States of America and in Russia—that the days of Britain as a great military Power are over; that she cannot continue with the kind of policy she has followed for the last two centuries, and that she has to realise that, and adopt a new policy.
These facts have revolutionary implications. Disarmament is in some ways like a political revolution—one cannot stop it halfway. Yet that is what the Government are trying to do. They are playing about with one improvisation after another and putting pragmatism in the place of principle. My hon. Friends and I who disagree with this policy believe that the Government deserve criticism from a different angle; not from the angle of the Conservative Party—whose Amendment we will, of course, oppose—but from the angle of the Labour Party when it was in opposition.
At Question Time today, the Prime Minister talked about atomic weapons. He said—I think that these were his words—that the Government were not going to embark on a new generation of nuclear weapons. We certainly do not want a new generation of nuclear weapons: what we want is more a effective birth control of these weapons.
When Members opposite were in office our criticism of their Government was that they were spending so much on Blue Streak, Thunderbolt and all the other things with fancy names. We put down a Motion saying that in 13 years of Tory Government they had wasted £20,000 million and had very little to show for it. There have been cuts, and I give the Government credit for that, but when Ministers talk about the 1970s and 1980s I wonder what they think the cost of so-called nuclear defence is likely to be if it continues at the present rate.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice said: thank God we are to have the Polaris in the 1970s.
§ Mr. Hughes
He is far more enthusiastic about Polaris than are some of the military correspondents. He is far more enthusiastic than the military correspondent of The Times and, at the other end of the scale, the defence correspondent of the Sun. The defence correspondent of the Sun. after a study of military 1085 developments, came to the same conclusion as I have come to—that Polaris should be scrapped.
Polaris was begun at the time of the Conservative Government, and what a furious attack was made on that Government when those now on the Government Front Bench were in Opposition. I remember the present Secretary of State for Defence jumping in anger to his feet and attacking Mr. Macmillan. He said that it was a life and death matter for the British people and that the then Prime Minister was taking great risks with new weapons. Even the more orthodox members of the Labour Party, who were in agreement with Mr. Macmillan, said that the Polaris might be useful but it should not be where it is, near to a centre of population. That was the argument about the American Polaris. Today we are having the great new expensive base on the West Coast of Scotland which has cost a considerable amount of money.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) said that we could not take all this money and spend it on hospitals, schools and that kind of thing. At the Polaris base for the last three years there has been a small army of men with bulldozers, concrete mixers and all kinds of building equipment, all destined to bring the base into existence next year. They have taken away labour from the building of schools, advance factories, hospitals and housing in one of the worst-housed districts in the world and put it to work on a base which will cost £45 million by the time it is completed.
I challenge the Minister of State for Defence Administration to deny that the present Bill for Polaris is greater than the Conservative Government estimated. The Conservative Government were to spend £350 million on five submarines. We are to spend £370 million on four. The average expenditure on each of the four submarines amounts to about £90 million a year. When they are completed, are they going to be the wonderful deterrent we talked about? The Americans are no longer building these submarines. They say that the Russian defences have been so much improved that an ordinary Polaris missile could not get through them. They are going in the for the Poseidon, which they think will. At the same time Russian defences, technique 1086 and technical "know-how" have improved to such an extent that for anyone to talk about these four submarines being effective in the 70s is simply to ignore the advance of modern scientific research. Therefore, by the time this programme is over we shall have thrown away £370 million which could have been devoted to improving the economic life of the country.
Reference has been made to the Royal Navy. One of the great difficulties of the shipyards at present is that they have not enough skilled labour and cannot deliver ships in time. One of the difficulties in the Clyde is that so much labour, skill and raw material is locked up in naval vessels. So we are coming to a shipbuilding crisis. Therefore, I contend that when the Minister utters only one short sentence about the Polaris submarine, which in the pamphlet issued by the Admiralty is described as of major importance, he does not realise the extent to which our money has been wasted on this project. There is to be a submarine school costing more than £8 million, and the cost of its staff will be £69,000 a year. It will absorb mathematicians and other technical people. Yet at the same time we cannot get mathematics teachers for our schools. This is, consequently, a burden on the economy, and those of us who live in the area feel that we should protest about it at every possible opportunity.
The Labour Party used to be against nuclear weapons. Nobody knows what these submarines will be used for. We knew what they were going to be used for when the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home) was Prime Minister. He stood for the independent nuclear deterrent and argued it, and in the election we defeated him—but we adopted his policy. It is no longer called the independent nuclear deterrent. It was said that it was to be handed over to the West. But no country in the West wanted it handed over. No country in the Western world wanted to embark on the Polaris submarine. So we are adapting the independent nuclear deterrent and adopting the theory and strategy of nuclear warfare.
How does that fit in with our attempts to obtain friendship with the Soviet Union. We had Mr. Kosygin here, and there was great enthusiasim about him. 1087 We talked about a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, and yet at the same time we were proceeding with the arms race. The time has come for a protest. We hear that the inevitable enemy is the Soviet Union. Have we forgotten what the right hon. Member for Kinross and West Perthshire said when he went to the Soviet Union in connection with the nuclear treaty: "We must not only coexist with the Soviet Union; we must co-operate with it." Instead of that we have a foreign policy opposed to friendship with the Soviet Union and are continuing the arms race.
I am glad to see the Prime Minister here, because I want to put a certain question to him. I remember listening to the Prime Minister when he came to a conference in Glasgow—he will, I am sure, recall it very well—to explain the defence and foreign policies of the Labour Party at that time. He made a very good dialetical job of it. He satisfied everybody, until there rose a little woman from the Shettlestone Co-operative Guild who asked him, "If you were the Prime Minister, Mr. Wilson, would you press the button for an atomic war?" The Prime Minister said, "No". But now we have got weapons which apparently are not going to be used. We heard the Prime Minister say that we will never be the first to drop the atomic bomb. I wish he would repeat that, because if we are never going to be the first, how are we going to be the second? There was much sense in the question put by that lady.
What is going to be our attitude to nuclear weapons? We cannot say that they add to the deterrent effect of the West. We have heard about the Nassau Agreement. That has still to be renegotiated. So we are embarking, with these few cuts, on continuing the policy of the Conservative Government. The great majority of the people in this country want a clean break away from the armament philosophy of the previous Government. They are not getting it. If this goes on, if in 1970 when the General Election comes we have not improved our housing and our social services, the Government will go down as the Government went down in 1951. The Prime Minister played a good rôle at that time. He resigned from the then 1088 Government because he thought that we were carrying a bigger arms burden than we could bear. We quite agree. If we are going on with the nuclear strategy, if we are going to continue expenditure on the same lines as we are now following with the Polaris submarines at the base at Gairloch, we shall add to our defence estimates and we shall disappoint the people.
My hon. Friends and I give this warning to the Labour Government—and we believe that the great majority of the rank and file are behind us: "You have got to have a policy to stop the arms race, a policy which will lead to the hope and peace of the people of the world."
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Reginald Maudling (Barnet)
We shall be voting for our Amendment and we shall also be voting against the proposition to approve this White Paper because we believe it is a sham from start to finish. Nothing that the Secretary of State said in his rather strange speech this afternoon did anything to dispel our objection on this point. There is nothing in the White Paper and there was nothing in his speech by way of a real attempt to justify the size and scale of the cuts which are being made in our Armed Forces. There is nothing in what he said to explain why the Government consider that this new and drastically reduced level of our Armed Forces can meet the commitments that this country has to face.
It really was deplorable that instead of addressing himself in this extremely important debate to those vitally important matters, he seemed more concerned to pursue his personal vendetta against my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) in a style more suitable to a music hall than to the House of Commons, and based on a series of misquotations of my right hon. Friend and of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), even misquoting himself at one stage, or under-quoting himself, shall I say. My right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West reminded the Secretary of State that in November, 1964, he said:… the right hon. Member for Monmouth … handed over to me the best weapon that any defence Minister in this country has yet had …1089 The right hon. Gentleman said that he was then referring only to the Ministry of Defence. But let us read on:… although I think he may agree with me when I say that the blade needs sharpening a little more and the handle could well be a little lighter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1964; Vol. 702, c. 1026.]That obviously meant the Armed Forces and could not conceivably refer to the Ministry of Defence itself. I have never heard talk of the Defence Ministry as an organisation needing a sharper blade and a lighter handle.
The cuts announced in the White Paper are very heavy and the reductions in manpower are specified in great detail. But neither are argued on their merits in any way. On the other hand, the White Paper does nothing to reduce any of our commitments, or if the party opposite prefers the word, obligations. It merely impairs this country's ability to meet our continuing commitments and obligations.
The right hon. Gentleman said a very odd thing. He referred to "major changes" in foreign policy. When challenged by my right hon. Friend he said that the Government had been making big reduction in the Forces and implied that these were major changes in foreign policy. They are nothing of the sort. They may amount to a major failure to live up to our foreign policy, but they are not foreign policy.
I hope the Prime Minister will make it clear, because it is of fundamental importance, whether there have been major changes in foreign policy in the course of the review which have led to these reductions in the Forces. As far as I can see, there have been no reductions in the nuclear arm nor in the total number of forces required to meet our European commitment. There have been some changes in stationing, but no reduction in the total. There has been no change in the obligation in Hong Kong. That is specifically stated.
To my relief, this afternoon we were told that there is no intention of giving up our obligations in the Gulf. But that was not specified in the White Paper. Indeed, a story to the opposite effect was leaked to the Press recently. We are glad to have the Government's assurance that there is no intention to 1090 reduce our obligations and commitments in the Gulf.
What does that leave? It leaves our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. and Malaysia and Singapore. I was absent from the Chamber when it was said, but I understand that, when the Defence Secretary interrupted the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), he left considerable doubts in the minds of those present about what the Government regard as obligations to S.E.A.T.O. and Malaysia. I ask the Prime Minister to restate them precisely.
Is it true that we have no obligation to defend Malaysia or to assist in its defence? Is it true that we can—although I realise that our contribution to S.E.A.T.O. is not set out specifically—overnight, at our own desire, reduce it to nil, as the right hon. Gentleman seemed to imply? We must be clear as to whether the Government consider our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. and Malaysia have been changed. If they have been reduced, we must be told. If they have not been reduced, there has been no reduction in commitment. All that has happened is that the Government have reduced the forces available to carry them out. That is the main burden of criticism contained in our Amendment.
Our second criticism concerns the prior announcement. One would have thought that the Government would have learnt the lesson of Aden. I say seriously to the Prime Minister that he must recognise that the premature announcement of our departure from Aden did immense damage to our interests in that part of the world. I was there at the time and saw how those most friendly to Britain were cast down and those least friendly rejoiced.
I will come to that in a moment, because the giving of advanced warning of that kind immediately undermines our ability to maintain our position. "Authority deserts the dying king," and from the moment that the Government made their announcement about Aden our position and ability to help people in that part of the world were diminished.
1091 In this case it is even more foolish to make an announcement of what we are likely to want to do in 1975 and onwards. How can the Government possibly proclaim that far in advance what we shall be in a position to do? I remember so well hearing Sir Winston Churchill say in the House that it is wise to look ahead but foolish to look further than one can see. The Government have tried to look much further than they can see. It is precisely their determination to make this announcement so prematurely which has caused the greatest concern to our friends and allies in Australia, Singapore and the United States.
We condemn the White Paper on the grounds which I have put forward. We believe that the reason for its faults is that the Prime Minister, once again, is trying to have things both ways. He has introduced cuts in our defence services designed to please his own back benchers, designed possibly with an eye to his own party conference. At the same time the Secretary of State puts in the White Paper phrases about maintaining a military capability and about maintaining forces east of Suez which are clearly designed to reassure of friends in Australia, America and other countries, Yet, as so often happens, when one tries to have things both ways, one finishes by having the worst of both worlds, as the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) said.
The Prime Minister clearly has not succeeded in appeasing his hon. Friends below the Gangway. He has not satisfied those who wish to see Britain entirely out of playing any rôle east of Suez or those who wish to see our defence services cut to ribbons in order to provide more money for domestic expenditure. On the other hand, he has not given any pleasure or confidence to our allies overseas. The speech of the Secretary of State, particularly the part about our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. and Malaysia to which I referred, unless corrected this evening, will have done even more to undermine the confidence which our allies have in our determination to play our rôle in that part of the world.
I turn shortly to the effects on some of the Services of the proposals in the Supplementary Statement. I hope that the Prime Minister will answer some of the points raised about the effects on the 1092 Services, because they are important and they are certainly causing very great concern to hon. and right hon. Members on this side of the House. The cuts in the Army are very heavy. Is it not a fact that they will be disproportionately effective in cutting down fighting power? The ratio between teeth and tail is almost bound to get worse in these circumstances. The overheads of a small force will grow. I do not see how that can be avoided.
I gather that all the training of the Army will be carried out in Europe. Can we train men for jungle warfare and operations east of Suez, if our troops have to go there, in Europe? Although it is pointed out that the strategic reserve will be increased, the fact is that the number of Army units available to carry out our obligations will be reduced very severely indeed. It is not enough to increase mobility to compensate for this reduction in numbers. The increase in mobility helps a good deal, but the job of getting troops by air, for example, to South-East Asia may prove very difficult. Over-flying rights, bases on the way there, possibly the difficulty of coming to land—all these things make the mobility argument one on which not too much stress can be laid.
Can the Prime Minister show how it is calculated by the Government that this very large reduction in Army units will still enable them to carry out the tasks which have not been reduced either in Europe or east of Suez.
I come now to the R.A.F. Here the Supplementary Statement is particularly vague. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South-West stressed, it tells us with great detail by how much the strength of the Air Force is to be run down. But there is nothing about the armament and equipment of the Air Force beyond the statement that the size of the front line will be reduced. That seems fairly clear. But what will the front line consist of?
What is the position now that the A.F.V.G. has fallen down? What is the position about the Harrier? We have heard it suggested today that there is doubt about its future. If that is wrong, I hope that the Prime Minister will say so. I will be very glad to hear it. When, however, we see in the White Paper the 1093 extraordinary, vague passage about the armament and equipment of the Royal Air Force, one wonders how, on this basis, the Government can possibly feel confident that this ill-defined force will be able to carry out, as the Government say, all the tasks falling on it in the 1970s.
I turn next to the Navy and the points put particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall). It is extraordinary that the White Paper says that the main striking force of the Navy will be the fleet submarine. What sort of weapons, range, radius of activity and effectiveness will these vessels have? Is it not a fact that if that is so the main striking power of the Navy under the Government's definition will be designed entirely for an Atlantic rôle and not in any way to intervene or have influence in activities on land? If that is so, how can it be reconciled with the concept of the amphibious force being our main arm east of Suez in the 1970s?
How about air support? This is a question which was raised by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew), and it has not been answered. There is no satisfactory answer to the way in which air cover can be provided for our amphibious forces sailing around, to use the Secretary of State's happy phrase, in the ocean. With bases so few in future and with no aircraft carriers, how can air cover be provided? If it cannot be provided, how can our forces operating east of Suez be regarded as credible in any sense?
Among the other points which I could mention are the cuts in research and development. Surely, at a time when forces are being concentrated, the need for higher quality and more developed weapons becomes greater and not less. There is the question of terms of compensation. Can the Prime Minister confirm that the terms of compensation offered on this occasion are, in many cases, substantially worse than the terms offered in 1957, even allowing for the fall in the value of money.
What is the position about our nuclear force and the proportion that it takes in our total military activities? The hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) quoted the figure of £370 million as the total cost of the force. The Secre- 1094 tary of State denied it, but I have looked it up and checked that that is the figure. Will the Prime Minister confirm that?
§ Mr. Healey
My hon. Friend was referring to the amount of money yet to be paid. He argued that we could save £375 million by scrapping it.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I was quoting the £370 million which is published by the Ministry of Defence as the cost of the Polaris submarines, as compared with the Tory figure of £350 million for one submarine less.
§ Mr. Maudling
The Secretary of State is having a bad day.
I would like to know from the Prime Minister to what extent the expenditure on nuclear weapons is becoming a greater percentage of the total defence budget. Presumably, as the conventional side is scaled down the cost of the nuclear force proportionately must rise. This is the nuclear force which the Prime Minister described in that graphic phrase as equivalent to a dried pea on top of a mountain. Does he still feel that the British nuclear force, on which he is relying for our contribution to N.A.T.O., is a dried pea on top of a mountain? If he does it is a very expensive vegetable.
Clearly, the main issue in the White Paper is the position of Britain east of Suez, around which the debate today has largely centred. There are four main reasons underlying the argument of those who wish to see Britain come out entirely from east of Suez. There are those who, like the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun), link it very much with the position in Vietnam. There are those, who are passionate protagonists of joining the European Community, who think that there is a conflict between our joining Europe and maintaining a position east of Suez.
There are those who are obsessed with economic pressures and the weight of expenditure on our budget. In general, there is a malaise that all of us feel in this country, which is part of the feeling one gets from the withdrawal from empire, that whereas formerly one could do a great deal, now we can do only little. It is part of the feeling one gets by being flouted by those to whom one gave independence. There is that general feeling that because Britain cannot do as much as she used to do east of Suez, she 1095 cannot, and should not, now do anything at all.
I think all these reasons are miscast. I think that on the arguments about Vietnam the main opponents of American policy in Vietnam have not really yet grasped what the significance for this country as well as for the rest of the world would be if the American position in Vietnam collapsed and if the tide of Communist aggression were to sweep forward over large areas of South-East Asia.
So far as the European argument is concerned, to which, I know, many of my hon. Friends attach great importance, I cannot see that joining Western Europe, joining the Community, would necessarily mean abandonment of any British obligations or commitments in other parts of the world. I do not think we should aim to join the Community in order to shut the door on the rest of the world. Indeed, rather the contrary. There was an argument in the debate about the Community which I remember so well that one of the main reasons for wishing to join the Community was that we would be strengthening the voice of Europe in the world as a whole. It is ironical that in a time when communications are getting so much easier, in a time when in practice the world is shrinking, there should be so many people who wish us to withdraw from world responsibilities, and peace-keeping responsibilities, when peace throughout the world is of infinite value to us.
§ Mr. J. Bruce-Gardyne (South Angus)
My right hon. Friend referred to slamming the door on the rest of the world, I think. Would he not agree that one can have an open door to the rest of the world without necessarily keeping substantial forces all over it for the indefinite future?
§ Mr. Maudling
That is not the point I am making. If we are to continue—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] A certain amount of cross-voting seems to be going on. If we are to continue to have a peace-keeping rôle, which is what I am talking about, outside Europe, then we must have the facilities to do it and for that purpose have the bases which are required. It would, I suggest, be a tragedy if the idea were to gain ground 1096 that somehow or another we must choose between Europe and American. Surely the whole idea of joining the Community is that it strengthens the voice of Europe not only in relation to America but to the world as a whole.
I come to the question of economies. I do not think the Government have yet made out a convincing case for the balance of payments savings they claim. I do not know whether the Prime Minister read that article in the Economist? I thought it very interesting. Can he confirm that in fact in their calculations of the economies the Government are taking into account the loss of exports from and the increase of imports to this country as a result of troop movements back here from South-East Asia?
I think the truth of the matter is that we are facing pressure on the defence expenditure because of the total failure of the Government to achieve any rate of economic growth. As my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, there was a steady reduction under our Government of the percentage of the national income spent on defence; it was a reducing proportion at a time when the national income was rising rapidly. It has been made apparent—it was in the debate in another place—that it is only because of the total failure of the economic policies of the present Government that they have had to turn to this new attempt to cut our forces in the face of the foreign and defence obligations of this country—to save money and make the foreign policy and defence policy of this country fit that and not our country's real interests.
The other argument for leaving the east of Suez arena is that this country can no longer play any effective part. I believe that this also is wrong. For example, in the Gulf I am sure that our continuing presence there is of immense value. I do not accept the argument that because oil is not flowing to us at the present moment our forces are not of any value in the Gulf. Those small Gulf countries, some of them with very large incomes, and some with larger incoming populations than their own indigenous populations, are very inflammable tinder for anyone who wants to cause trouble. Are the Government 1097 taking account of what could, in the vacuum made by our withdrawal, be very great dangers indeed for us and other countries of the Western world? A vacuum there would be a very dangerous one. We and we alone are in a position politically and militarily to carry out this obligation, for obligation it is, particularly to the Trucial States and other countries of the Gulf who have relied and still rely upon the undertakings which we have given to them.
Further East, I am certain that we can make a significant contribution. Our military strength, as is rightly said, adds only marginally to the military strength of the United States. However, our political position is of immense importance there. I was convinced of that on my recent visit to Washington. If we were to withdraw from east of Suez, the Americans could not long themselves continue there. They could not in political terms continue to carry alone the burden of maintaining peace in that part of the world. Therefore our contribution there, though in sheer, hard, calculated military terms may be small, in political terms is very important.
I conclude my case against the Government by coming back to my original argument that the Government have not gone about this in the right way. They have obviously started with a determination to cut a large sum of money off the defence estimates, and they have made the decision clearly for political and not for diplomatic or strategic reasons. They have not reduced our commitments. We still have commitments and obligations in Hong Kong, Malaysia, S.E.A.T.O., and the Gulf. We have commitments and obligations of a solemn character spread across the world. What they have done is not to reduce the obligations, but to reduce our capacity to carry them out.
What sort of force can we maintain in the Indian Ocean without bases from which to operate? Is there any credibility in the Secretary of State's concept of a maritime force on the basis which he has in mind? What size would it have to be? Would it be totally self-contained like the Seventh Fleet? How much would that cost? If it is not to be self-contained like the Seventh Fleet, how can it credibly and satisfactorily perform any military task? How can air cover be provided on a satisfactory basis?
1098 Then we have to consider the point of view of our allies and their confidence in our determination. How can they continue to be confident in what we intend, having heard what the Secretary of State said this afternoon about our obligations to S.E.A.T.O. and how easily they could be reduced to something very small?
To sum up, we on this side of the House consider that this review is not a coherent attempt to solve our defence problems. It is a piecemeal effort to save money at a cost, in the long-term, to the national interest. The Secretary of State makes no attempt to answer this argument. He merely baits us by saying that we want to spend more money on defence. I give him the point. It may be that we should have to. But our principle would be that any money needed to maintain the security of this country must be a prior charge on the Budget. Let the Prime Minister disagree with that if he likes.
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Wilson)
Whatever disagreements have been expressed today there has been a general realisation throughout the day that this debate is one of the most important and far-reaching debates on defence that this House has had perhaps for many years. It centres round a White Paper which represents the culmination of nearly three years' intensive review of the nation's defence policy in all its aspects—its implications for, and dependence on, overseas policy, and the rôle of military power in supporting that policy, our commitments, and the planning of the forces and the equipment required to carry out our defence rôle.
What we have been debating is a defence strategy which is projected 10 years ahead. We have to look 10 years ahead if we are to get the maximum economy from the money and resources allocated to defence and the maximum defence effectiveness with those resources.
Not only does the redeployment of forces, if it is to be done efficiently and economically, require several years' planning and implementation, but, in the field of highly sophisticated equipment in terms of aircraft, naval vessels and the increasingly sophisticated requirements of a modern Army, the period of production of that equipment, including essential 1099 R and D, itself dictates that maximum efficiency can be achieved only by looking well ahead.
I do not think that the question of the need to look 10 years ahead is in dispute between the two sides of the House. Indeed, this was the basis of the famous Defence White Paper of 1957, produced by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys). The fate of that White Paper was due not to any failure to look ahead, because he did that, but to fundamentally wrong appraisals, both of the rôle which the Services would have to carry out over that period, and of the type of weapons required for that rôle—above all, the chronic miscalculation of basing the whole strategy on Blue Streak, which was dead less than three years later.
As my right hon. Friend made clear this afternoon, a great deal of the clearing up which he has had to do, especially in the first year or so after he came into office, stems from decisions taken 10 years ago to stake our all on one precarious weapon and to run down the forces to levels far below those necessary to carry out the tasks assigned to them. And this takes no account of the additional increases in commitments made by the right hon. Gentleman after he left the Defence Department and became Commonwealth Secretary. We inherited these commitments, even though from time to time we had great difficulty in ascertaining exactly what he did commit us to—nothing in writing, but often a nod and a wink, and different people interpreted it in different ways.
This underlines one of the great problems with which we have been faced in defence matters, and which has been covered in defence debates for many years under successive Governments. One of the dominant themes has been the problem of overstretch. The House knows from our previous debates how serious the problem was up to about 1965, how enormously eased the problem of overstretch has been; what this has meant in terms of troops being overseas for long periods away from their families, or being asked to spend relatively long periods in arduous and difficult climatic conditions.
It also means that this chronic and dangerous overstretch has been so much 1100 reduced and will be further reduced as a result of this policy. It means a change from the very high degree of vulnerability with which we were faced, with virtually no strategic reserve in this country, which was the position a year or two ago, and the ever-present danger, therefore, of further unforeseen needs to intervene to preserve peace.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles rose—
§ The Prime Minister
I have only just started, and I want to answer as many points as I can.
Today's debate is not about the necessity to look 10 years ahead. It involves a major question of judgment about whether—this is what is called in question by the Opposition Amendment—our conclusions from this 10-year look are wise and responsible. This is what the debate has been about.
First, there is our decision to withdraw forces from Aden during the next few months. This has been the subject of repeated debates before today. The right hon. Member for Barnet (Mr. Maudling) said that this was wrong, that we were wrong to announce our withdrawal. He went on to attack those who have said that because we had a very limited power in recent weeks in the Middle East, for example, in the matter of getting the oil flowing, our forces were wasted there. He attacked that very strongly. He passed strong strictures on those who said it, but the right hon. Gentleman who has chiefly put this view forward is the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South West (Mr. Powell), the defence spokesman for the Conservative Party.
I know that the right hon. Gentleman is a little allergic to quotations, but this is what he said. I do not know whether this quotation is right or not. I will just give it. I do not know whether it is right.
§ The Prime Minister
The Government have never issued any D Notices. It only happened when the hon. Gentleman was a P.P.S.
§ The Prime Minister
All I can say is that it is headed "Conservative Central 1101 Office News Service". I presume, therefore, that it is correct. Referring to the events of the last few weeks, it said:When this happened it promptly appeared that the so-called British 'presence', either in the Mediterranean or in the Persian Gulf, was powerless to protect our interests either in oil or sterlng. From the Government of Iraq to the Sheikh of Abu Dhabi, those who wanted to, just turned off the oil taps and we—of course, rightly—never dreamt that we could do anything to prevent it by our military presence any more than we could have used force in the area to prevent sterling deposits from being withdrawn.On the contrary, it became obvious that it was just because we were physically present in the area that our oil and our reserves were in danger, when oilier people's were not.Perhaps the two right hon. Gentlemen could sort it out and let us know the result. If they do not succeed perhaps the Leader of the Opposition would take a hand. It is a little remarkable that in a major defence debate the Leader of the Opposition has not sought to intervene. When I was Leader of the Opposition I spoke in most defence debates. We even took the initiative in having some sometimes. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about last Monday's debate?"]
I was happy on Monday to leave the demolition of the right hon. Gentleman to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. There was no problem on Monday about my hon. Friends' expressing two points of view, but that is what we have had from the Opposition Front Bench speakers today.
§ The Prime Minister
For the Opposition to have no views on the important subject of defence is an insult to the subject. The view we took on Aden—on everything we know and have seen—and many of my hon. Friends made speeches about this in opposition—the decision to withdraw our forces from Aden, was and is right and necessary. Aden must have a political solution. I do not underrate the difficulties of getting it. An extension of our presence in Aden would do nothing to further that political solution.
I turn now to a bigger question—or a question that has occupied more time—concerning our decisions affecting the Far East. To "recap",—because there has been some misunderstanding—first, we have decided to reduce our forces deployed in Singapore and Malaysia by 1102 about half by 1970–71. That is, we shall reduce the present 80,000 men and women working in or for the Services to about 40,000, of which about half will be civilians, by 1970–71.
Secondly, while we make it plain that we cannot plan the period beyond 1970–71 in the same detail, we have announced thatwe plan to withdraw altogether from our bases in Singapore and Malaysia in the middle 1970s—the precise timing of our eventual withdrawal depending on progress in achieving a new basis for stability in South-East Asia and in resolving other problems in the Far East".The interesting thing is that the House still does not know, after two Opposition Front Bench speeches, where the Opposition stand—whether or not they support our decision to withdraw in the 1970s. We have not had an answer to this question. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke this afternoon he seemed to convey the idea that he was against the decision; or was he only against the decision to announce the decision now? Our policy is clear, because it is in the White Paper which the House has been asked to approve.
I remember many defence debates in the past. There was the famous one in February, 1964, when the debate ended in an uproar because of a debating point scored by the then Minister of Defence on what our policy would be. Our policy here is clear. We and the country have a right to know—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition claims to lead not just a negative Opposition. He is not very good at that, either, but his party claims to be an alternative Government. The country has the right to know where they stand on this question.
§ Mr. Edward Heath (Bexley)
I understand that the Prime Minister has said that the clear policy of the Government is that they intend to withdraw all remaining forces from Singapore and Malaysia in 1975 if there is political stability in the area. If there is not political stability, will the Government withdraw?
§ The Prime Minister
I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman has studied the White Paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I will answer. Then I shall put a question that I shall ask the 1103 right hon. Gentleman to answer. The answer is that we intend to withdraw from our bases in those areas by the middle 1970s. My right hon. Friend has made that clear. We have said that there is a margin between 1973 and 1977. The timing, as between those two dates, depends on the conditions in the area. But unless we announce now, it will not be possible for Singapore and Malaysia to make either defence arrangements or economic arrangements—
§ Mr. Heath rose—
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, Sir. We intend to withdraw by the middle 1970s. I should have thought that the long experience, sometimes fought by hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that to delay a withdrawal too long is the very way of provoking instability in the area. That is what they should have learned from Cyprus; that is what they never learned from India.
Now, I want to know where the Opposition stand. We have heard nothing today Of—[HON. MEMBERS: "What is your policy?"] I have said what the Government's policy is. We now want to know what the alternative Government's policy is. They pride themselves on their policy. They have had time to study this. All we have had are statements outside the House. I will quote again, because I want to be clear, answers given by the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West on television last week. One question was:Mr. Powell, do you agree with the main theme of the White Paper that Britain should pull out of the Far East by the mid-1970s?The answer was:I don't think it's so much a question of whether by the mid-1970s we have ceased to be present in force ashore on the mainland of Asia; I think it's a question of what you say about it now and the effect of that on the circumstances …The next question was:Are you saying that once having decided to pull out, one should then do it without announcing that you're going to do so?1104 The answer was:I very much doubt whether it should be necessary, except for purposes of internal consumption …",whatever that may mean. Yes, but the right hon. Gentleman, who is shadow Defence spokesman, does not get anywhere by pointing across the Chamber. He should tell us: does he support a decision to withdraw in the 1970s or does he not?
§ The Prime Minister
All right. Does the Leader of the Opposition support it or not? I gave way twice to him and I will do so now—
§ Mr. Heath
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman that we have specific, limited commitments in the Gulf and in the Far East and that I believe we should adhere to those commitments and obligations with the necessary forces to carry them out until there is stability in the area to enable us to withdraw.
§ The Prime Minister
I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether the Opposition support this decision to—[HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The answer is—[Interruption.]
§ The Prime Minister
I know about the commitments and obligations. I will come to them. I was not clear whether the right hon. Gentleman supports this paragraph of the White Paper or rejects it. Perhaps he will tell us—
§ Mr. Heath
I have told the right hon. Gentleman what the policy is. It is to carry out our obligations in the Gulf and in the Far East, which are limited and specific, and to have the necessary forces to do so until there is stability in the area which enables us to withdraw. I would call the right hon. Gentleman's attention to column 1957 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 8th March, where it is clearly stated:… it is difficult to prophesy in advance what the situation in the Far East in the 1970s will be. What I am sure would be wrong would be for us to take a decision now which would make it certain that whatever was happening in the Far East then we could in no way influence it …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th March, 1966; Vol. 725, c. 1957.]1105 That is the then Labour Foreign Secretary on 8th March, 1966.
§ The Prime Minister
Yes, Sir, we had that quoted this afternoon. The right hon. Gentleman continues to run away from the question. We know all about, and I hope to come in a moment to, the question of our commitments and obligations and how we are to honour them.
The right hon. Gentleman will not face up to the question that must be decided tonight—whether it is necessary to stay in the bases with a physical presence in order to honour those commitments and obligations. We say that it is not. The right hon. Gentleman who the defence spokesman for the Opposition refuses to answer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, he spoke for nearly an hour this afternoon and did not answer. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not answer and the Leader of the Opposition has a classical formula which does not answer the question either.
Reviewing a book by my right hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) earlier this year, and talking about my right hon. Friend's views on the so-called world role, the defence spokesman for the Opposition wrote:He was right there, of course, though he ought not to have been so surprised, the 'world rôle east of Suez' was a piece of humbug; the reality had resolved itself into the ability to operate either as an American satellite or on a scale so limited that it could not in the worst case demand more than a very small exertion of force. The will to maintain a presence and a pose can betray a nation into inverting its genuine defence priorities and neglecting those preparations and branches of the art of war on which its future independence and existence may depend. It would, for instance, be perfectly possible to prejudice the defence of Western Europe in the ostensible interest of peacekeeping east of Suez' without contributing one jot to the peace and stability of the Orient.That was the Opposition's defence spokesman. That is why the whole lot of them lack credibility. As long as they cannot settle these policies, for the opposition these defence debates will never be anything but a weary fusillade of obsolescent quotations.
There has been much interest in what I said at Devonport in 1964 about naval ship building. The quotation is on the record and I need not repeat it, because we have it at every defence debate. I 1106 will give the figures. The average new naval construction programme under the 13 years of the Tory Government was £47.1 million. In their final year they got up to £51.8 million. The average for the three years that we have been in office is £84.7 million. I do not think that that suggests that we have gone back on what I said at Devonport in 1964. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, hon. Members opposite quoted it this afternoon to suggest that we had broken that pledge. Now they find that they are wrong, all that they can do is to raise their hands in mock submission to my hon. Friends behind me.
§ Lieut.-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells) rose—
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Prime Minister
I have been long delayed in trying unsuccessfully to extract an answer from the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Prime Minister
Of course you are not interested. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I did not mean you.
In the debate about the Far East the right hon. Gentleman quite fairly drew attention to the anxiety which has been expressed by some of our allies and Commonwealth partners. Of course, we have had the fullest consultation at the highest level with them over a period of many months. We fully understand and appreciate their concern and they equally fully understand our position in these matters. We have made absolutely clear not only in relation to Malaysia and Singapore, but also to our other Commonwealth partners in Australia and New Zealand, our continuing interest in the security and stability of that area.
What the House must realise—my right hon. Friend explained it and I will not repeat it—is that if we seek to honour those commitments by bases, we have to 1107 protect those bases and we have to have stocks duplicated with stocks at home, and we must have air cover to protect them and troops to protect the Air Force and all the rest of it. What we have said that what we shall maintain is not a military presence, but a military capability based on the ability to get there to fulfil our remaining commitments. This is a point which, I think, has been well appreciated by our Commonwealth partners.
First of all, if ground troops were needed, it is a question of getting them there. We stated this in paragraph 20 of the 1966 White Paper. This was the main theme of a speech which I made in a Committee room upstairs, which was later made public and which was quoted today. It is that the main question is not having bases all over the world, but having the ability to get there when we are needed.
The assurance we can best give to Malaysia and Singapore lies not in the presence of ground troops—surely, over a period of time, the provision of ground troops must be more and more their responsibility; it is unrealistic to suggest in this day and age that it should be the role of Britain to provide the ground troops in these areas—but in the provision of what they cannot provide for themselves, except with an inordinately expensive use of resources they cannot afford. It is the ability, from sea and air, to provide the sophisticated support, with all the expert equipment that they cannot afford, necessary to deter a potential aggressor from launching a sophisticated attack on them. This is something which they cannot and should not now be asked to provide for themselves. [Interruption.] I do not know why hon. Gentleman opposite want to make a joke out of a lot of this.
Recently, Malaysia was facing an Indonesia armed with highly sophisticated aircraft. It was our role, under successive Governments, to provide a deterrent against the use of those aircraft. It still makes sense in our defence relationships with Malaysia and Singapore—[An HON. MEMBER: "Nuclear weapons?"] There is nothing about nuclear policy in this. This is the rôle that we should take up with Maylasia and Singapore.
Our policy is based on this. Our commitment is not to police the world. We have made it clear that we do not believe 1108 that to be the rôle of this country, but we have pledged this Government against any war, in Europe, out of Europe, west of Suez, east of Suez—and, it is still relevant to say, in Suez—in which Britain would go it alone. This is the basis of our policy. Equally, it is our policy that we cannot police the whole world on the basis of far-flung military stations.
The key to our power to intervene, whether for United Nations peace-keeping purposes or in any other way, is our ability to get there; and our expenditure on long-range heavy capacity transport planes is directly connected to this. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have drawn attention, and fairly, to the anxieties of the Governments of Malaysia and Singapore. This is what the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia said after our policy had been announced:As far as we are concerned, Britain's withdrawal of bases from Malaysia by mid-1970 is still flexible and we have now nothing much to complain about. We have enough forces to look after our internal defence security if we are attacked. If we are attacked by foreign forces, we won't be able to defend ourselves. But here again, I am glad that Britain has clearly stated she will honour her defence agreement with Malaysia.The Prime Minister of Singapore, to whom reference has been made today, has said that he could see a situation in the mid-1970s where the capabilities which Britain can contribute… could easily match the kind of capability which we can ourselves produce on our own, and together with the Malaysians, the Australians and New Zealanders, we can present a formidable combination.I should have thought that these statements would provide some reassurance to the House [Interruption.] Of course the Australians would like to see us there. We have had to explain our capacity in this matter. One thing which impressed the Australian Prime Minister was the outline given by my right hon. Friend of exactly what we can contribute in terms of the sophisticated support which these countries cannot provide for themselves in Malaysia and Singapore.
This is the policy which we are asking the House to support tonight. Doubts have been expressed about whether we should have announced this so long in advance and whether, if we announced it, we should have given a more precise date for carrying it out, and so on. I do not believe that it would have been right or, 1109 indeed, possible for us to have taken such a decision without announcing it. The idea that we could wait, without saying or doing anything to indicate our intentions, until a perfect moment arrived, and then suddenly withdraw 40,000 men overnight is an idea which I do not believe anyone would propose. It is not only the logistic difficulties involved in withdrawing a vast number of British servicemen and their families, together with all the equipment in the stockpiles, but of enabling Malaysia and Singapore to adjust their economies and policies to the situation created by our withdrawal.
One of the unfortunate consequences of Britain's military dependence on large bases overseas is that the countries in which those bases are situated have become too economically dependent on the presence of British forces in their midst. We have seen this recently in Malta, and the difficulties which arose there.
The problem in Singapore is no less formidable in nature than the Maltese problem, and very much greater in size. But the Government of Singapore, now that we have stated our policy, are confident, and rightly, that with our help they can establish Singapore's economy on a much sounder basis for the future. They will need financial help, and we have undertaken to give financial help, and that help will be given outside the ordinary aid programme.
But what we have to ensure is that the considerable reduction that we shall be making in the next few years shall take place in as orderly, and controlled a manner as possible, so as to help the Governments of Singapore and Malaysia, who have great and adventurous ideas of what they want to do in the way of economic development, to make their economic transition as smoothly as they can.
This is why we felt it right to announce the decision in any event. Does any right hon. Gentleman think that if we took a decision we should have kept it a secret from the House; that it would have been possible to keep that a secret, with 300 or 400 planners, officers and others, in three countries? Of course, there would have been leaks, and the House would have been right to have been outraged if we had entered into a 1110 secret agreement with our colleagues and partners and not have told the House about it. So we feel it was right, having taken the decision, to make it known.
I have not dealt with the problem which formed one of the central themes of the speech of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West—the question of the economic inspiration lying behind this as apart from the motivation behind a great deal of what we have done. My right hon. Friend explained to the House what it means in terms of budgetary expenditure, in terms of saving in overseas expenditure and in terms of saving of manpower overseas. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon thought that we were wrong to place so much emphasis on economic reality. This was from the cheeseparing Financial Secretary—and I do not complain about that, it is the Financial Secretary's job to be cheeseparing; I have been Chairman of the P.A.C., and I applaud that attitude—who rejoiced in the Defence White Paper of 1957. He complained today of a cut of 24 per cent., but the cut in the White Paper of 1957 was 47 per cent. in the Armed Forces. Soon after that, he resigned, with the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, who then said that we could not afford the mounting defence expenditure at that time.
The reason why I feel that it is right to commend this defence policy to the House, and why I believe that it will be seen to be right, is that it not only expresses the essential unity of defence policy and foreign policy, without which each is meaningless, but it also represents a unity of defence, foreign and economic policy, relating our defence commitments to the resources we can and must make available.
A Government have the duty to provide adequately for the national defence and the contribution they can make to peace. They have the duty to see that their Armed Services are adequate and well equipped. They have the duty to see that the provision for those Services, for this equipment, is sufficient, and that the resources deployed for this purpose are effectively spent and well spent.
For, because in the last resort, the strength of a nation's defences can never be greater than the strength of its economic base, the whole policy—defence, 1111 foreign and economic—must represent a conscious unity based on priorities. It is such a policy that we are asking the House tonight to endorse.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan Giles rose—1112
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. John Silkin) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 321, Noes 231.1115
|Division No. 489.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Hilton, W. S.|
|Albu, Austen||Delargy, Hugh||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dell, Edmund||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Alldritt, Walter||Dempsey, James||Horner, John|
|Anderson, Donald||Dewar, Donald||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Archer, Peter||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dickens, James||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Ashley, Jack||Dobson, Ray||Howie, W.|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Doig, Peter||Hoy, James|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Driberg, Tom||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Dunnett, Jack||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Barnes, Michael||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Barnett, Joel||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Beaney, Alan||Eadie, Alex||Hunter, Adam|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Edelman, Maurice||Hynd, John|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'ee & Spenb'gh)|
|Bidwoli, Sydney||Ellis, John||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Binns, John||English, Michael||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Bishop, E. S.||Ennals, David||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Blackburn, F.||Ensor, David||Jeger,Mre.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'craa,S.)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Boardman, H.||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Boston, Terence||Faulds, Andrew||Johnson James (K'ston-on-Hull, W)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Fernyhough, E.||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Finch, Harold||jonee,Rt.Hn.Slr Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)|
|Boyden, James||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Jones, j, Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Floud, Bernard||Jones, T Alec (Rhondda, West)|
|Bradley, Tom||Foley, Maurice||Judd, Frank|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Kelley Richard|
|Brooks, Edwin||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Ford, Ben||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Forrester, John||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Fowler, Gerry||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Brown,Bob(N,c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Laweon, George|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Galpem, Sir Myer||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Buchan, Norman||Gardner, Tony||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Garrett, W. E.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Cinsburg, David||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lector, Miss Joan|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Courlay, Harry||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Cant, R. B.||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Lewie, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Gregory, Arnold||Lewie, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Castle, Rt, Hn. Barbara||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Coe, Denis||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Coleman, Donald||Griffiths, Win (Exchange)||Loughtm, Charles|
|Concannon, J. D.||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Luard, Evan|
|Conlan, Bernard||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Lubbock, Erie|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hamilton, James (Bothwetl)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Craddock, Ceorge (Bradford, S.)||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Cronin, John||Hamling, William||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Harper, Joseph||McBride, Nell|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||McCann, John|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hart, Mrs. Judith||MacColl, James|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Haseldine, Norman||MacDermot, Niall|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Hattersley, Roy||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Davidson,james(Aberdeenshire,W.)||Hazefl, Bert||McGuire, Michael|
|Davies, C. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denie||McKay, Mrs. Margaret|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Heffer, Eric S.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Henig, Stanley||Mackie, John|
|Davies, Ilor (Gower)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Maclennan, Robert||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Stonehouse, John|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, c.)||Pavitt, Laurence||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Pentland, Norman||Swain, Thomas|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Swingler, Stephen|
|Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Taverne, Dick|
|Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Manuel, Archie||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mapp, Charles||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Marquand, David||Price, William (Rugby)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Marsh, Bt. Hn. Richard||Probert, Arthur||Tinn, James|
|Mason, Roy||Pursey, Crndr. Harry||Tuck, Raphael|
|Mayhew, Christopher||Randall, Harry||Urwin, T. W.|
|Mellish, Robert||Rankin, John||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Mendelson, J. J,||Rees, Merlyn||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Mikardo, Ian||Reynolds, G. W.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Millan, Bruce||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Wallace, George|
|Miller, Dr. M. S.||Richard, Ivor||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Weitzman, David|
|Molloy, William||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Moonman, Eric||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth(St. p'c'as)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Whitlock, William|
|Moyle, Roland||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Rose, Paul||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Murray, Albert||Ross, Rt. Hn. William||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Neal, Harold||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Newens, Stan||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchureh)|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Norwood, Christopher||Sheldon, Robert||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Oakes, Gordon||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Ogden, Eric||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|O'Malley, Brian||Short,Rt.Hn.Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Oram, Albert E.||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)||Winnick, David|
|Orbach, Maurice||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Woof, Robert|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Skeffington, Arthur||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Pad[...]ey, Walter||Slater, Joseph||Yates, Victor|
|Paget, R. T.||Small, William|
|Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Spriggs, Leslie||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Pardoe, John||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Park, Trevor||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Mr. Charles R. Morris.|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Channon, H. P. G.||Gibson-Watt, David|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Chichester-Clark, R.||Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan|
|Astor, John||Clegg, Walter||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Cooke, Robert||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Glover, Sir Douglas|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Corfield, F. V.||Glyn, Sir Richard|
|Balniel, Lord||Costain, A. P.||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Goodhew, Victor|
|Batsford, Brian||Crawley, Aidan||Cower, Raymond|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Crouch, David||Grant, Anthony|
|Bell, Ronald||Crowder, F. P.||Gresham Cooke, R.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Grieve, Percy|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Cos. & Fhm)||Currie, G. B. H.||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gurden, Harold|
|Biffen, John||Dance, James||Hall, John (Wycombe)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Hamilton, Marquess of (Fermanagh)|
|Body, Richard||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Doughty, Charles||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Braine, Bernard||Drayson, G. B.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Brewis, John||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Eden, Sir John||Harvie Anderson, Miss|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Emery, Peter||Hawkins, Paul|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Errington, Sir Erie||Hay, John|
|Bryan, Paul||Eyre, Reginald||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||Farr, John||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Fisher, Nigel||Heseltine, Michael|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Campbell, Gordon||Fortescue, Tim||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Foster, Sir John||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Fraser.Rt.Hn.Hugh(St'fford & Stone)||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Holland, Philip|
|Hordern, Peter||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Hornby, Richard||Miscampbell, Norman||St. John-stevas, Norman|
|Hunt, John||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Monro, Hector||Scott, Nicholas|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Montgomery, Fergus||Sharpies, Richard|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Smith, John|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||stainton, Keith|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Stodart, Anthony|
|Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Murton, Oscar||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Jopling, Michael||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Tapsell, Peter|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Neave, Airey||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Nott, John||Teeling, Sir William|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Onslow, Cranley||Temple, John M.|
|Kirk, Peter||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Kitson, Timothy||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Tllney, John|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Lambton, Viscount||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Percival, Ian||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Peyton, John||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Wall, Patrick|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Pink, R. Bonner||Walters, Dennis|
|Longden, Gilbert||Pounder, Rafton||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Loveys, W. H.||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Weatherill, Bernard|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Webster, David|
|MacArthur, Ian||Prior, J. M. L.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Pym, Francis||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|McMaster, Stanley||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Rawlineon, Rt. Hn. Sir peter||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick|
|Maddan, Martin||Rees-Davles, W. R.||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Maginnis, John E.||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Marten, Neil||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Worsley, Marcus|
|Maude, Angus||Ridsdale, Julian||Wright, Esmond|
|Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wylic, N. R.|
|Mawby, Ray||Robson Brown, Sir William||Younger, Hn. George|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Royle, Anthony||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Mr. Jasper More.|
§ Main Question put:—1116
§ The House divided;Ayes 297, Noes 230.1119
|Division No. 490.]||AYES||[10.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Brown, Bob(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,W.)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Albu, Austen||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dobson, Ray|
|Alldritt, Walter||Buchan, Norman||Doig, Peter|
|Anderson, Donald||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dunn, James A.|
|Archer, Peter||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dunnett, Jack|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Ashley, Jack||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Cant, R. B.||Eadie, Alex|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Carmichael, Neil||Edelman, Maurice|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Barnes, Michael||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Barnett, Joel||Coe, Denis||Ellis, John|
|Beaney, Alan||Coleman, Donald||English, Michael|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||Concannon, J. D.||Ennals, David|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Conlan, Bernard||Ensor, David|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)|
|Binns, John||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Cronin, John||Faulds, Andrew|
|Blackburn, F.||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fernyhough, E.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Finch, Harold|
|Boardman, H.||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Boston, Terence||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Floud, Bernard|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Foley, Maurice|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Foot, Sir Dingle (lpswich)|
|Boyden, James||Davies, Ednyfed Hudeon (Conway)||Ford, Ben|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Forrester, John|
|Bradley, Tom||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Fowler, Gerry|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Delargy, Hugh||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Dell, Edmund||Gardner, Tony|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Dempsey, James||Garrett, W. E.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Dewar, Donald||Ginsburg, David|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||MacDermot, Niall||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Gourlay, Harry||Macdonald, A. H.||Robnieon.Rt.Hn.Kenneth'St.P'c'as)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McGuire, Michael||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mackie, John||Rose, Paul|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mackintosh, John P.||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Maclennan, Robert||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)|
|Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Shaw, Arnold (llford, S.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||MacPherson, Malcolm||Sheldon, Robert|
|Hamling, William||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Harper, Joseph||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Shore, Peter (Stepney)|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfield,E.)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N 'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Hart, Mrs. Judith||Manuel, Archie||Short, Mrs. Renée(W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mapp, Charles||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hattersley, Roy||Marquand, David||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hazelt, Bert||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mason, Roy||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Henig, Stanley||Maxwell, Robert||Slater, Joseph|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mayhew, Christopher||Small, William|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mellish, Robert||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Mendelson, J. J.||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Horner, John||Millan, Bruce||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Stonehouse, John|
|Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)|
|Mitchell, R. C. (s'th'pton, Test||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Molloy, William||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Howie, W.||Swain, Thomas|
|Hoy, James||Moonnan, Erlc||Swingler, Stephen|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Taverne, Dick|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Moylr, Roland||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hunter, Adam||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Fredeick|
|Hynd, John||Murray, Albert||Tinn, James|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Neal, Harold||Tuck, Raphael|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Oakes, Gordon||Urwin, T. W.|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Ogden, Eric||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||O'Malley, Brian||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Jeger,Mrs.Lena(H'b'n&St.P'cras,S.)||Oram, Albert E.||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Orbach, Maurice||Wallace, George|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Oswald, Thomas||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Weitzman, David|
|Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham.S.)||Padley, Walter||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Paget, R. T.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Whitaker, Ben|
|Judd, Frank||Park, Trevor||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Kelley, Richard||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Whitlock, William|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Parkyn, Brlan (Bedford)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lawson, George||Pavitt, Laurence||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Pearson, Arthur (Pontyprldd)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Pentland, Norman||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Prentlce, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Lipton, Marcus||Price, William (Rugby)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Probert, Arthur||Winnick, David|
|Loughlin, Charles||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Luard, Evan||Randall, Harry||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rees, Merlyn||Woof, Robert|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Reynolds, G. W.||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Yates, Victor|
|McBride, Neil||Richard, Ivor|
|McCann, John||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|MacColl, James||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Mr. Alan Fitch and|
|Roberto, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Mr. Charles Morris.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.SirWatter|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)|
|Astor, John||Biffen, John||Bryan, Paul|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Buchanan-Smith,Alick(Angus,N&M)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Black, Sir Cyril||Buck, Antony (Colchester)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Body, Richard||Bullus, Sir Eric|
|Balniel, Lord||Bossom, Sir Clive||Campbell, Gordon|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Carlisle, Mark|
|Batsford, Brian||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Braine, Bernard||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Bell, Ronald||Brewis, John||Channon, H. P. G.|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Clegg, Walter||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Pereival, Ian|
|Cooke, Robert||Holland, Philip||Peyton, John|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Hordern, Peter||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hornby, Richard||Pink, R, Bonner|
|Costain, A. P.||Hunt, John||Pounder, Rafton|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Crawley, Aidan||Iremonger, T. L.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Crouch, David||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pym, Francis|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Currie, G. B H.||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grmstead)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Dance, James||Jopling, Michael||Rees-Davles, W. R.|
|d'Avigdor-Coidsmid, Sir Henry||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Deedea, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Kershaw, Anthony||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Kimball, Marcus||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Doughty, Charles||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Kirk, Peter||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kitson, Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Royle, Anthony|
|Eden, Sir John||Lambton, Viscount||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carahalton)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Emery, Peter||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Scott, Nicholas|
|Eyre, Reginald||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Farr, John||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, John|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Longden, Gilbert||Stainton, Keith|
|Fortescue, Tim||Loveys, W. H.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Foster, Sir John||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Fraser.Rt.Hn.Hught(St'fford & Stone)||MacArthur, Ian||Tapsell, Peter|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. lain||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McMaster, Stanley||Taylor,Edward M.(G'gow,Cathcart)|
|Giles, Rear-Adm. Morgan||Macmiltan, Maurice (Farnham)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maddan, Martin||Teeling, Sir William|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maginnis, John E.||Temple, John M.|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marten, Neil||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Maude, Angus||Tilney, John|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Goodhew, Victor||Mawby, Ray||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Grant, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Grieve, Percy||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Miscampbell, Norman||Wall, Patrick|
|Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walters, Dennis|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monro, Hector||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Half-Davis, A. G. F.||Montgomery, Fergus||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hamilton, Marquees of (Fermanagh)||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Webster, David|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Murwo-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Wilis, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Murton, Oscar||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Wolrige-Cordon, Patrick|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vers||Neave, Airey||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Nlcholls, Sir Harmar||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hastings, Stephen||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nott, John||Wright, Esmond|
|Hay, John||Onslow, Cranley||Wylie, N. R.|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Heseitine, Michael||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|That this House approves the Supplementary Statement on Defence Policy 1967, Command Paper No. 3357.|